• Timana Tahu: Latrell deserves right to focus on doing his job in NRL prelims (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)Source: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Timana Tahu previews two huge NRL preliminary finals and says Roosters star Latrell Mitchell deserves the right to focus on doing his job, rather than dealing with racist online abuse
Timana Tahu

24 Sep 2019 - 3:24 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2019 - 3:24 PM

There are just two games remaining in the NRL season and they’re set to be great clashes.

Like most rugby league fans, I thought it was going to be a Melbourne versus Roosters grand final but it’s now just interesting to see who’s gonna be in the grand final out of Souths and Canberra.

The old coach Wayne Bennett has done it again, and in his first season in charge of the Rabbitohs.

He’s had some downfalls in the last couple of years but at the age of 69, to still be coaching at this top-level and still competing with all the rest of the coaches is quite amazing, given everything about the game has evolved and he’s adapted with it.

Then there’s the Canberra Raiders who haven’t been in a grand final for a long time and it’s just good for the city of Canberra. There’s a lot of fresh faces in that side and it’s a young squad who’ve timed it perfectly throughout the finals.

The Raiders and Rabbitohs clash is on Friday, then on Saturday it’s the Roosters and Storm. I still feel that whoever wins out of those two teams obviously becomes the favourite and I think they will take it out in the grand final.


Following Latrell's Lead

Either way, expect Latrell Mitchell to have a massive game on Saturday for the Roosters. On Monday he was asked again about standing up to racial abuse and it’s awesome to see him able to talk about it.

I think with the racial taunts that he gets on social media, there are a lot of fake profiles and trolls, so it goes to show how weak people are that they’ve got to hide behind an online wall just to gain the satisfaction of slurring racism at a human being. And that’s what he is at the end of the day; he’s a person and he has a family.

For that racial taunting, it’s just gutter trash and gutter minded, from people with a lot of hatred in their heart. They’ve got to deal with their own problems when they go to sleep at night.

For him personally, it’s probably a good idea that he shuts off his social media this week because at the end of the day he’s got a job to do and come Saturday evening, no one’s potentially going to be caring about anything other than the way he performs on the field.

And that’s really important for him to perform this weekend because that’s his bread and butter and his job.

Something as powerful as what he’s standing up for has the potential to help motivate him, but when it comes time to play, if you focus on something else and not your job, it can lead you down a path of destruction.

It’s good that he’s been a leader this season and called it out, but he deserves the right now to focus on his job

It’s good that he’s been a leader this season and called it out, but he deserves the right now to focus on his job, which is to play football and bring in money for him and his family so his family can live comfortably.

This is an uphill battle trying to fight ghosts and he needs to pick his moments and now this weekend focus on his footy. In terms of the battles in the two games, Latrell’s obviously a key man for the Roosters, along with James Tedesco, Cooper Cronk and Joseph Manu.

They’re a powerhouse team that love to start fast and blast their opposition off the park early. They’ve got big and powerful backs behind big forwards with great line speed, and when they get into good field position they can finish teams off with their individual brilliance.

But they can find themselves in cruise control when they build that early lead so they need to be careful against the Storm.


A Final Four Finals

Any team that has Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, David Asofa-Solomona and Josh Addo-Carr is a dangerous one, and that club’s been the best for a decade. They’re finals specialists and know how to handle the pressure and grind out games.

Melbourne leads the season in so many major statistical categories, but haven’t been tested all that much of late. As I’ve written before, it comes down to how much they want it, and they’ll need to be hungry against the Roosters. It’s a little bit of a similar match-up in the first preliminary final.

Canberra have a big forward pack that gets them on the front foot, then they boast big backs with speed and skill. Their halves kick well and with home ground advantage and still riding the big win against the Storm, they’re a dangerous outfit. But they’ll be favourites against South Sydney, which might not suit the Raiders.

With key players Sam Burgess, Damien Cook, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker, Souths play to pressure, love to stay in the grind and force the errors, before punishing their opponents. 

Every point means a lot to the Rabbitohs and they’ll always take the two points from within 40m out. They love being the underdog, but it their key players don’t perform, the whole team can crumble.

With James Roberts, Walker and Dane Gagai, they’re still so dangerous, and either way, it’s going to be a massive weekend of footy.


Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot

Over The Black Dot airs Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34).