After 111 years, fans will still be ‘baying for blood’
SYDNEY Roosters stars expect some "baying for blood" from both sets of fans when their 111-year rivalry with South Sydney resumes in the qualifying final on Friday night.
"It's a gladiator sport and these are the big games you play for,'' Roosters winger Brett Morris said.
"It's great for the fans, they love it. They love any time there are rivalry games. You see fans pack out the stadiums."
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Champion Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk is also pumped for the latest clash between the two foundation clubs from Sydney's eastern suburbs.
"Souths v Roosters at the SCG in week one of the finals is pretty cool," he said.
Cronk's teammate Mitch Aubusson chimed in: "We want to win every game but with this one, we just want to win a little bit more."
The Roosters will welcome back some heavy hitters in Morris (calf), Aubusson (ankle), Luke Keary (who missed last week's match due to the birth of his first child) and Siosiua Taukeiaho (ribs).
Their returns could be offset by the loss of Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who will front an judiciary hearing on Tuesday night on a careless high tackle charge.
The burning question is whether Souths can topple premiership favourites the Roosters twice in a week after last Thursday night's win at ANZ Stadium.
That win followed the Rabbitohs' victory over the Roosters in round one this year.
While both sets of players respect one another, Morris knows fans from each club will again rip into each other.
"They will be baying for blood," said Morris, who will be playing his 250th NRL game.
"From the outside looking in, even when I wasn't here, you could see the fans really get up for this game.
"As a player, I don't tend to buy into it too much. It can take your focus away from the game. I don't go there.
"When you're in the finals, everything ramps up a notch but we only really focus on the week that we're in.
"You can't look too far ahead - that's when you come unstuck."
Although in just his second year at Bondi, the retiring Cronk is well aware of the Roosters-Rabbitohs rivalry.
"From afar, you know that it's part of history, two foundation clubs,'' Cronk said. "These rivalries are built on long-term history, respect and a little bit of angst thrown in among it.
"That's what makes sport what it is these days. You've got to love it, embrace it and drum it up.
"Let's break it down; both teams want exactly the same thing and the other team is stopping you from doing it.
"I don't give two hoots how many games I've got left. I care about this footy club and how many games they have left. There will be zero excuses come eight o'clock on Friday night."
Aubusson is also ready for a massive match.
"It's awesome," Aubusson said. "I have been part of it for a long time now and I really enjoy games against them, no matter where the teams are on the ladder.
"There is always something a little bit extra in it. We love that as footy players."
Aubusson would not use the word "hatred" to describe Souths.
"It is a game of footy, in the end," he said. "From our point of view, we want to win everything.
"Both teams go extra hard and then shake hands at full-time and go our separate ways."