The Sydney Roosters have wasted no time in reminding South Sydney what’s at stake in next week’s preliminary final.
Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney believes South Sydney may find the burden of expectation too much to handle in next Friday’s mouth-watering preliminary final clash at ANZ Stadium.
The Rabbitohs haven’t appeared in or won a grand final since 1971 and for the past two seasons the men in red and green have fallen at this same hurdle, a game short of the premiership decider.
To add even greater significance to the occasion, it’s remarkably the first time the fierce neighbouring rivals, Souths and Easts, have faced off in a first-grade finals match in 76 years.
No sooner had the Roosters escaped with their 31-30 win over North Queensland and the mind games were underway.
Maloney knows the pressure will all be on Souths, it’s simply up to the Roosters to ensure the Bunnies players feel the heat.
“Obviously they’ve had a couple of years where they’ve come so close and no doubt that will be playing on their minds, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Maloney.
“Depending on how you take it, they’ll have some nerves there.
“They’ve got a lot of expectation with South Sydney.
“They haven’t done a lot in a long time and there’s a (great) sense of expectation amongst their fans.
“Hopefully it comes into play. Hopefully we can put ourselves in a position in the game where that can start weighing on their minds.
“But it won’t happen until we start really well and we make them go to some dark places.”
Maloney insists the Roosters won’t be underestimating Souths, who powered past Manly in week one of the finals to earn the week off.
The Roosters were frank about what they could take out of a bumbling one-point victory over the Cowboys, which looked in extreme doubt after they surrendered a 30-0 first-half lead.
It’s not the first time the Roosters have gone to sleep in a match this year – in the middle rounds of the season they were run down by Cronulla after leading 24-0.
The Roosters were also scrappy in their opening playoff loss to Penrith.
However, Maloney is confident his team will rise to the challenge on the big stage against Souths.
“We’re looking forward to it, it should be a cracking crowd,” he said.
“Last year we had 60,000 to the round 26 game. You’d like to think we’d beat that with a game to go to the GF.
“It’ll be awesome, it’s the sort of games you want to play in. The rivalry is brilliant and this is only going to add to it.”
South Sydney isn’t the only side trying to create history.
The Roosters are aiming to become the first team in a united league competition to go back-to-back since Brisbane in 1992-93.
Trent Robinson will become the first coach in the modern era to lead a team to consecutive premierships in the first two seasons of a career, if the Roosters can lift over the next fortnight.
It explains why the Roosters haven’t been sailing as smoothly as they were this time last year.
“We’re not rattled but it’s different,” he said.
“Everything fell into place last year. We’re trying to do something that’s pretty big and we knew no one was ever going to hand it to us.”