Rabbitohs ready to answer the call

Feeling good: Greg Inglis. Photo: Brendan EspositoAt this time of year it’s better to hear from the bearded man than the fat lady.
Nanjing Night Net

‘‘If you can win with Wigan, you can win with Souths’’ he drawled as he shuffled past Michael Maguire, bringing a smile to the coach’s face.

In the background, on Redfern Oval, half a dozen first-team players were kicking around footballs with some local kids, the sun beating down on a perfect spring morning. Ah, the serenity.

There’s a genuine sense of calm at Redfern. That or they’re good bluffers. However heavy the burden of four decades without a premiership and the hopes and dreams of thousands of fans from Hillsdale to Hollywood may be, Maguire indicated on Wednesday that, by the time they run onto ANZ Stadium on

Friday night to play Manly for a place in the grand final, Souths will be ready physically and mentally and, this time, will have experience on their side.

‘‘We’ve spoken a little bit about that,’’ he said of last year’s preliminary final loss to Canterbury. ‘‘But really we are a different team now. We’ve got a lot more experience, particularly in this arena.

‘‘This team’s been together for two years now trying to develop what we’ve got the opportunity for. I believe we’ve improved a hell of a lot right throughout this season from where we were last year. You get to measure yourselves, but the experience and understanding – a number of players have played in rep teams now, played in big games – hopefully we can take that into Friday.

“We learnt lessons throughout the season, different adversities we faced through certain games. It’s been a big marathon to get to this opportunity. Now it’s about taking your opportunities.’’

Maguire, who joined Souths after a successful stint with Wigan Warriors in England, said he had given his players time to get refreshed as well as train during their precious extended break. They’d also spent some quality time together in readiness for the big stage. ‘‘The team has built a great strength amongst themselves,’’ he said. ‘‘They really enjoy playing together. That’s probably the biggest key for us, getting out and enjoying working hard for each other. That comes into the mental side of playing tough games.’’

But the coach has seen enough of the Sea Eagles to know that they, too, have a strong mental game. They’ve been pounded physically, especially recently, but have stayed alive. There is no point assuming exhaustion will finally catch up with them this week, either.

Maguire didn’t say it, but the inference was that the Sea Eagles would probably have gained a lot of belief in themselves from their ability to overcome hurdles. More practically, Maguire outlined, dangers exist everywhere in the Manly line-up. ‘‘Both halves are playing well, their forward pack’s rolling forward and if their forwards are rolling, their halves are feeding their edges,’’ he said. ‘‘Jamie Lyon’s a quality player on the edge as well. We need to make sure we defend very well.’’

And any question about Brett Stewart playing? Forget it. The fullback will be there. ‘‘I’m sure he will. You want your quality players to be playing every game,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a bit like when Greg Inglis plays for us. I’m sure he’ll be playing.’’

As will Inglis. ‘‘He is good at the moment. He’s trained really well over the last two weeks. A lot of people have talked about his knee but I see Greg, particularly this week, moving really well. He’s enjoying what he’s doing. When Greg’s in that mood, hopefully there’s good things to come. They really just want to focus about their own game and play the way they’re capable of playing.’’

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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