Creagh: We Understand The Wait
By Dan Walsh (NRL.com)
Dragons skipper Ben Creagh was a member of the last team to overcome one of the few premiership droughts that rivals the 43-year barren run of the Rabbitohs, and he has a message for the red and green grand final favourites: embrace the pressure.
The Bunnies' current title wait extends beyond coach Michael Maguire's time on this earth, and given the success enjoyed throughout its 106-year history, trumps the porch light Cronulla have left on for Harold Holt and a maiden trophy since 1967, and the 28 years passed from the day Parramatta legends Ray Price and Mick Cronin completed a final victory lap of the SCG.
The only club in the competition whose history and fanatical supporter base genuinely compares to that of the Rabbitohs is their old sparring partner St George, in both their original form and as part of their current joint-venture with Illawarra.
The Dragons went a rather excruciating 31 years between premiership drinks after their 1979 triumph over the Bulldogs, falling at the final hurdle five times in 1985, 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1999 and enduring the longest drought in their storied history.
The hype that surrounded Creagh and his teammates in 2010 when they took on the Roosters redefined the term 'fever pitch' in its rugby league context, but the Wayne Bennett-coached Dragons took it in their stride and ran out convincing 32-8 winners.
The Red V second-rower says the best way for the Bunnies to emerge unscathed from what could be a suffocating lead-up as Redfern whips itself into a frenzy this week is to revel in the pressure that's inevitably headed their way.
"It is tough, no doubt about it with all that pressure, but you have to try and enjoy it," Creagh told NRL.com.
"Especially with the team we had in 2010 and being minor premiers, our win/loss record was really good and it's tough going into the finals series, and then the GF as favourites.
"But the 2009 finals series, the disappointment out of that where we lost two in a row and got knocked out early, that was a massive motivation for us.
"And when everyone starts predicting the same stuff, well you try and use it.
"I see the Rabbitohs in a similar position.
"It happened to them last year, missing out the game before the grand final.
"To have a similar team to suffer that big a disappointment and go through that much hurt is a big motivator for the following season."
Also a key aspect for the Dragons' 2010 side was the fact their premiership window was only going to be open for a finite time – another parallel with this South Sydney outfit.
Given the imminent departures of star forwards Sam Burgess and Ben Te'o to rugby union at the end of the year, coupled with the rise of halves Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary, young guns Dylan Walker and Alex Johnston and the superb form of Greg Inglis, there's a strong belief the Rabbitohs will get few better chances to end their long wait than with their current side.
"Sammy Burgess is leaving Souths at the end of the year, Ben Te'o too, so there's that aspect there for them," Creagh says.
"When you have a team together and they're pretty much the same as they've been for a couple of years now, they'd be very close.
"We knew  was going to be one of the last years that that team's 1-17 was going to be together, so it was basically our final chance to make the most of a team that gels so well and plays so well as a team all year.
[Souths] have experienced a lot of good times together, but also tough times the last couple of years and that's very powerful."