The Chronicle

Born-again Bunny won’t bomb out


SYDNEY Roosters reject Blake Taaffe is the Energiser Bunny who has been ordered to slow down by South Sydney fitness chiefs and has no fears about being peppered by the Panthers.

Taaffe will become the least experience­d starting player in NRL grand final history when he runs on to Suncorp Stadium on Sunday to face Penrith in this year’s premiershi­p decider.

In what will be just his eighth NRL game, Taaffe will be tasked with defusing Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary’s towering bombs and keeping the Rabbitohs’ defence in line from fullback. At 22 and deputising for suspended superstar Latrell Mitchell, Taaffe has a mountainou­s task ahead of him to help Souths clinch its first NRL title since 2014.

But the South Sydney junior is ready for the challenge and has proven he is not out of place in the NRL arena.

Taaffe is such a fitness freak and effort player that he has been told to tone down at training because of the extraordin­ary statistics he is producing in GPS data.

“I do a lot of k’s out there. I have a lot of high-speed efforts on the GPS,” Taaffe said.

“As a fullback that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to be everywhere and I do my best to do that. If I have to run 10km then so be it.

“I was having around 70 high-speed efforts in a training session. They had to bring me down and told me to save it for the game instead of training.

“I think I’m naturally fit. I come in every pre-season a bit overweight but the fitness is always there. I think it’s in my bloodline.

“I get my fast genes from my mum and the toughness and grit from my dad. He was a bit of a roughnut when he played, I’ve heard.”

Taaffe has excellent rugby league bloodlines.

A La Perouse product, his great uncle Kevin Longbottom played more than 100 games for the Rabbitohs during the 1960s alongside South Sydney legends like John Sattler and Eric Simms.

Taaffe grew up idolising the Rabbitohs and always dreamt of playing for the club.

But he was signed by the Roosters as a junior while living on the Central Coast, much to the dismay of his family who were overjoyed when Souths came knocking.

“I was a diehard Souths supporter growing up,” Taaffe said. “My family was a bit angry when I signed with the Roosters but it was a dream to play NRL and I would have played for whoever I got the chance with. (But) I couldn’t get a start with them, which made me want to go home.”

After a couple of local firstgrade games for Birkdale Panthers, he ended up at the North Sydney Bears under-20s, before being signed by Souths.

“I was very stoked and grabbed it with both hands. I haven’t looked back.”

Taaffe is now looking up towards the sky for the bombs that will be coming his way on Sunday night.

He spilt one early in Souths’ week one win against the Panthers but hasn’t faltered since in what has been a sensationa­l finals series for such an inexperien­ced player on the big stage.

“I don’t mind catching bombs, it’s my job, I’ve got to catch them,” he said.

 ?? ?? Blake Taaffe is making the most of his second chance in the NRL with South Sydney. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Blake Taaffe is making the most of his second chance in the NRL with South Sydney. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

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