Ben Te’o has been rushed onto South Sydney’s bench for Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters.
The return of Ben Te’o from suspension may have been welcomed by South Sydney fans but cynics can argue the Queensland State of Origin forward is no good luck charm.
Te’o has been thrust onto an extended bench for Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against Sydney Roosters after completing a four-match ban.
His comeback could not be better timed for long suffering Rabbitohs supporters hoping the bruising Maroons back-rower helps seal South Sydney’s first grand final berth since 1971 – the year they last tasted premiership success.
However, Te’o is no stranger to finals frustration himself.
His pain may not be on the scale of the Rabbitohs faithful still sweating on elusive title No.21 but Te’o has made a habit of walking away from a grand final decider a gutted man.
Remarkably, Te’o is in sight of his fourth preliminary final in five years.
And let’s say he is due for a change of luck.
In 2009, Melbourne’s 40-10 thrashing of Te’o’s Brisbane ended Broncos legend Petero Civoniceva’s NRL career.
In 2011, Test captain Darren Lockyer’s NRL days were also over in Brisbane’s 26-14 loss to Manly.
And Te’o may have also played his last NRL game if South Sydney don’t rectify last year’s 30-20 preliminary final loss to Manly and triumph over the Roosters in Friday night’s GF qualifier.
Te’o links with Irish rugby club Leinster on a two-year deal at the end of the NRL season.
Te’o has been named on a seven-man bench upon his return from a ban for a Round 23 chicken wing tackle on Queensland and ex-Brisbane teammate Sam Thaiday.
The Roosters welcomed back prop Dylan Napa from a two-week ban, with French international Remi Casty the most likely to make way after being relegated to 18th man.
“Thankfully we have a fully fit squad and Dylan’s return is a welcome addition to the 17,” Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara said.
“Few games get bigger than this.”
At Penrith, Adam Docker is back from suspension for Saturday night’s grand final qualifier against the Bulldogs.
He is on an extended bench with Kevin Naiqama and Sam Anderson.
The Bulldogs have an unchanged 17 from their 18-17 semi-final thriller over Manly after back-rower Josh Jackson was cleared of a chicken wing tackle and last round’s hero Trent Hodkinson (knee) received the green light.
Meanwhile, North Queensland conspiracy theorists may be at it again after the NRL decided to switch video referees for the preliminary finals.
Bernard Sutton was with Luke Patten on video duty when they controversially ruled North Queensland No.6 Robert Lui had knocked on, denying them the winning try in a 31-30 thriller claimed by the Roosters.
This week Patten will link with video ref Ashley Klein for the Rabbitohs-Roosters clash while Sutton will partner Luke Phillips for Panthers-Dogs.
FOURTH TIME LUCKY FOR BEN TE’O?
Te’o’s NRL preliminary final history:
In 2009 – lost 40-10 to Melbourne (playing for Brisbane)
In 2011 – lost 26-14 to Manly (Brisbane)
In 2013 – lost 30-20 to Manly (South Sydney)
NRL points: 164 (41 tries)
NRL games: 150
NRL debut: Wests Tigers v St George Illawarra at Telstra Stadium, Round 9 2007
Current club debut: South Sydney v Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium, Round 1 2013
NRL clubs: Wests Tigers 2007-08, Brisbane 2009-12, South Sydney 2013-14 (links with Irish rugby club Leinster at season’s end)
Tests: 1 (Samoa 2008), World Cup 2008
State of Origins: 7 (Queensland, 2012-14)
Australian Prime Minister’s XIII 2012