Take into account JFH, Too, Cleary and I think Yo haven’t played much the last month
Young Taaffe needs to be the new #14 for the playoffs. He has dash, skill and could even spell Cook when the opposition is tiring. There is absolutely zero rationale using Barrie Marshall there in Week 1. Bennett must come up with something different in Week 1, and its starts with using Taaffe off the bench.I like the team. Important to give these guys an opportunity. No point being sorry you didn’t give them a rehearsal if they are needed to cover injuries or suspensions in the finals.
Taaffe and Mamezoulos look like keepers. Both need to be in the 17 next season, Taaffe may even be the starting #7.I like the team. Important to give these guys an opportunity. No point being sorry you didn’t give them a rehearsal if they are needed to cover injuries or suspensions in the finals.
Taaffe will be playing fullback.Young Taaffe needs to be the new #14 for the playoffs. He has dash, skill and could even spell Cook when the opposition is tiring. There is absolutely zero rationale using Barrie Marshall there in Week 1. Bennett must come up with something different in Week 1, and its starts with using Taaffe off the bench.
Welcome to the forum mate!!Young Taaffe needs to be the new #14 for the playoffs. He has dash, skill and could even spell Cook when the opposition is tiring. There is absolutely zero rationale using Barrie Marshall there in Week 1. Bennett must come up with something different in Week 1, and its starts with using Taaffe off the bench.
Boys..this article has brought tears to my eyes,ive watched him for 3 years i knew he had greatness in him, go Taafe go!!A couple of beautiful articles about Taaffe in the build up to this week, especially the one with Trell. Great story,
The $300 punt that brought one-time Rooster back to Bunnies: https://www.nrl.com/news/2021/09/02...ht-one-time-rooster-back-into-rabbitohs-fold/
How Latrell helped Souths rookie through the tough times
A tough road to the top has prepared Blake Taaffe to fill a pair of the biggest boots in the game — and his mentors at the Rabbitohs are confident he will handle the challenge.
Somewhere in his bedroom at home, Blake Taaffe keeps an autograph from the man he is now set to replace.
A signed picture he received only a few months ago. Back when he was nursing a left ankle that more than simply being busted, was refusing to heal. Which isn’t how things were supposed to go.
No, when Taaffe initially twisted that ankle in February’s Charity Shield match against St George Illawarra in Mudgee, the diagnosis was for him to miss four, maybe five weeks.
But when those four weeks became six? Then seven, nine, and eventually double digits?
Yeah, it worried the kid.
Not because Taaffe has never experienced setbacks. No, even at 22, the opposite is true.
With that foot simply the latest hurdle for a fella who has always been considered too small, or light, who never made a junior rep team, never got further than the bench for Roosters Jersey Flegg, and who by 19 couldn’t even crack first grade with The Entrance Tigers.
So as for being the man to replace Latrell Mitchell?
Even now Taaffe is almost 20kg too light. That, and 14cm too short.
A fella who only three years ago, as Mitchell was winning premierships, Origins, and fielding $1 million offers, was playing with the North Sydney Bears for free.
Had good reason, too. Nobody else wanted him.
Yet with the battling Bears short on numbers for Jersey Flegg, well, eventually they plucked Taaffe from Central Coast park footy for a contract worth his medical bills and nothing more.
Which put another way, means he joined South Sydney’s feeder club for free.
Which was still only slightly less than the $5000 Taaffe earned a year later when, against all odds, and while working as a carpenter, he helped a South Sydney Jersey Flegg side all the way to a title.
But the start of something big? Not quite.
Instead, come 2020, a little thing called Covid stole almost an entire season from this playmaker who still lives with his grandparents in La Perouse. Then in February this year, it was that twisted ankle which again outed Taaffe for what would eventually be the opening 10 weeks.
Yet even when the kid returned? Covid struck again. It meant that in two years, this young Indigenous livewire has continually been flat out playing not much of anything.
“Which has been tough,” admits mum Dorothy. “And really knocked him about.”
Dad Darren, agrees.
With the former Rabbitohs lower-grader explaining his son “was just so frustrated … he really needed some reassuring that everything was going to be OK”.
Enter Latrell Mitchell.
That Rabbitohs superstar who, you may have heard by now, won’t play again this year after smashing the cheekbone of Joey Manu last weekend so badly the Roosters favourite now boasts three metal plates in his face.
Not for the first time in his life, Mitchell is again the game’s biggest yarn.
Indeed, in the days since said tackle, both Mitchell the man, and his red mist tendencies, have been dissected like some frog in a Year 12 biology class.
Worse, that Manu hit has also proved the catalyst for an ongoing saga that’s seen referee Henry Perenara dropped, Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hagreaves grilled, coach Trent Robinson lightened of $40,000, the Book of Feuds bagged, Jayden Su’A claim abuse, the Roosters deny it, and even Mitchell’s partner Brielle – horrifically — receive death threats via Instagram.
Elsewhere, there have also been headlines made of referees generally, Phil Gould specifically and host of others including – but not limited to – Manu’s family, Victor Radley, the NRL Bunker, Wayne Bennett, Nick Politis and that Roosters side fighting on like Monty Python’s Black Knight.
Oh yeah, the Bunnies are also now without a superstar fullback for the NRL finals series.
All of which brings us back to Taaffe, and that photograph resting on a bedside at his grandparent’s house.
An image which not only shows the youngster seated alongside now great mate Mitchell, but carries the NSW star’s signature beneath the simplest of messages: “Hey bra, Head up. Trust The Process.”
Then to finish things off, “Love Ya”.
“It’s a message Latrell wrote earlier this year,” Darren Taaffe explains. “Back when Blake was really frustrated by his injury and Latrell, he just wanted him to keep going, keep him trusting that it would all be OK.
“And throughout everything, Latrell’s just been so supportive.
“You can even see in the Charity Shield when Blake goes down injured, there’s footage of Latrell going straight up to give him a cuddle.”
Better, the Indigenous All Star is now quietly preparing his protege for everything to come.
Which isn’t to say Taaffe is the new Mitchell.
Who could be?
“But absolutely Latrell will be mentoring him,” insists the rookie’s uncle Keith McCraw, who doubles as chairman of Souths Juniors. “Obviously nobody wanted Blake’s opportunity to come at Latrell Mitchell’s expense.
“But I know Latrell, Cody Walker, Benji Marshall — those three have all really instilled a confidence in Blake this year. As a footballer, he already had the speed, the natural ability … but those three have instilled a confidence in Blake to get out there and do the job.”
Which is why we can also tell you, alongside that signed message from Mitchell, sits one from Marshall too.
A photograph of the pair playing together on which the New Zealand Test great has written: “I Love You Bro. You’re The Man.”
Importantly, Taaffe now gets the chance to prove it.
Which is some rise for a fella who, after debuting in June, will make what is still only his fifth NRL appearance this Saturday against the Dragons.
A fullback who got so little game time when initially playing with the Roosters Jersey Flegg, he walked out one day and never returned.
From there, and after being unable to crack a start with The Entrance, switching to nearby Berkley Vale, where after just two games coach Alex Moore helped secure that Bears deal.
“And first game, he played the Roosters,” dad recalls.
So as for how he went?
“Carved up, scored a couple of tries,” he laughs. “Afterwards, the coach came up and said ‘Ah, I probably should’ve given you more of a game’.”
Says Moore: “All Blake ever wanted is an opportunity.
“And once Norths gave him that … well, look where he is right now.”
Parramatta recruitment boss Ben Rogers agrees.
Two winters ago, when still employed by Souths, it was Rogers who was tasked with taking a “limited budget” and creating that Bunnies Flegg side that would eventually beat all-comers.
Asked about the key to Taaffe, who played No.6, the coach recalls weekly video sessions with both he and halfback Lachlan Ilias, of whom big things are also expected at Redfern.
“Start of each week we’d watch video of the opposition,” Rogers recalls. “And it really was like working with your assistant coaches.
“Those two wouldn’t only find chinks in the opposition armour, or put plans together, they could then go out and execute.
“It eventually became a big part of how we beat the more fancied teams.”
Which brings us full circle to this Saturday.
Then beyond that, as far into the playoffs as these Rabbitohs can go.
Which, with Mitchell now gone, nobody expects to be a decider. But for Taaffe, that’s fine.
Yet know this kid whose grandfathers played for the same La Perouse team, whose father and uncle also played for the Bunnies, he also boasts the type of athleticism, and wheels, that comes from having Souths great Kevin Longbottom as an uncle, and old Canterbury flyer Gavin Lester as a cousin.
Elsewhere, he defends, as Uncle Keith puts it “so well he’s never needed hiding in any defensive line”.
Throw in too those footy smarts that once upset a Jersey Flegg premiership race.
And grit? This is the same kid, remember, who only three years ago was unwanted by every club not named North Sydney.
Which is no small thing when you’re playing for free.