20/04/2024

Blake Taaffe will likely make his finals debut starting at fullback on Saturday against the Penrith Panthers. Photo: South Sydney Rabbitohs - Twitter

Young Rabbitoh Blake Taaffe is ready to step up at fullback for the finals and he's got teammates backing up his selection this week.

Blake Taaffe has big shoes to fill when the South Sydney Rabbitohs take on the Penrith Panthers on Saturday evening but there’s plenty of confidence in the young man that has been named at number one this week.

In the final round of the home and away season, Taaffe started at fullback for the third time for the year but it was a very different team around him.

Without the likes of Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds in the spine, he had the chance to prove in the 20-16 win over St George Illawarra Dragons that he should be the first choice to start at fullback week one of finals.

Speaking on Wednesday Taaffe was happy to get a run with his younger teammates in Round 25, in particular, Peter Mamouzelos and Lachlan Ilias.

“It was good to get a game, it’s hard for us young boys with no comp or anything going on, so it was good to get a little run,” Taaffe said.

“I loved playing with them [Mamouzelos and Ilias] through 20s and it was even better to go out there and play with them on the big stage.

“Shows a lot of hard work that us three boys have put in, three years ago probably would have looked back at that moment and I don’t think we would have seen all of us playing together, so it’s a massive achievement for us all.”

Blake Taaffe came off the bench in Round 20. Photo: South Sydney Rabbitohs – Twitter

At present Taaffe is named at the starting fullback role but South Sydney does have two other options, in Alex Johnston and Cody Walker, that coach Wayne Bennett may choose to go with.

It will come down to who Bennett believes is the best man for the job on the day and if that choice is weighted heavily by who can best take on Panthers’ halfback Nathan Cleary’s bomb kicks the 22-year-old is ready to take on that challenge.

“If I get chosen by Wayne I see it as a great opportunity. If the senior players have trust in me and the coaches too, I’ll take a lot of confidence out of it,” Taaffe said.

“I’ve been playing fullback my whole life so if he kicks bombs, I’m sure he will, but if he does I’m sure I’m ready for the challenge.”

But if you were thinking the 22-year-old was spending additional time with Reynolds working on cleanly receiving high kicks Taaffe isn’t planning on doing anything different during practice.

I haven’t changed anything, catching bombs at the end of a session is a part of my ritual as a full back, I’m not trying to base my game on catching bombs or do that, it’s just a part of my role and my job.”

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If there’s someone that has the confidence in Taaffe, it’s experienced Rabbitoh’s utility Benji Marshall who praised the youngster’s confidence and energy.

“He’s a really confident kid and we love what Blake does and the thing with Blake is you just want him to play how he plays, and he plays with a lot of energy and a lot of support around the ball and we’ve got full confidence in the kid.”

Marshall really emphasised this by asserting that he didn’t think he needed to impart too much wisdom upon Taaffe in the lead up to the match.

“This week I don’t feel like he needs to be helped, he’s learnt a lot throughout the season,” Marshall said.

“Being around guys like Latrell, Cody and just from the weekend he’s gonna have a bit of a change in personnel around him, he’s gonna have a lot more regular first graders around to help him out.

“The thing with Blake is that he’s a really confident kid, we need him to do his job and everyone else to do theirs.”

Taaffe has the faith of some of his senior teammates that he’ll be able to rise to the occasion and the young Rabbitoh is confident that if he gets the chance he’ll make the most of it.

“He’s [Wayne Bennett] said to me that if I get the opportunity, I’ve just got to grab it with both hands and I am confident that I will grab it with both hands, I look to it as something that I do look forward to.”

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