Departing South Sydney prop Roy Asotasi says premiership glory with the Rabbitohs this season would mean more to him than the title he won at Canterbury back in 2004.
The 31-year-old will leave the NRL at the end of 2013 to take up a two-year deal with English Super League club Warrington and is eyeing a fairytale farewell as Souths look to end a 42-year premiership drought.
Asotasi was in his first full season in the NRL when he was part of the Bulldogs side that won the 2004 grand final, but having helped South Sydney rise from battlers to competition heavyweights in his seven years at the club he says a premiership win on October 6 would be the highlight of his career.
“I guess 2004 will always be special but winning one for South Sydney would mean a lot,” he told NRL.com as he prepares to face his former club at ANZ Stadium this Friday night. “In 2004 I was young and in my rookie season. To be able to do it in the red and green, I’ll be able to embrace everything.
“It happened in a flash in 2004. I enjoyed it and I remember it but this would be a lot more meaningful at the later stage of my career.
“I guess getting there in my first regular season of first grade and playing every game, I thought to myself ‘First grade isn’t as bad as people think’ but nine years later … it’s been a long time since I’ve played in a grand final so I will definitely appreciate it a lot more.”
Asotasi was a key signing for Souths back in 2007 at a time when they typically struggled to attract big name players, with the veteran prop admitting he also wanted to prove a point to those who told him he was making a mistake by joining the foundation club.
“There would be a lot of pride given the fact that a lot of people didn’t think my move to South Sydney would bring me a premiership,” he explained. “People would always remind me that they haven’t won one since 1971. Even though we’ve won the most premierships, it has been a long time since the last one.
“It would mean a lot because I know how hard the players have worked the past few years and also the members that have stuck with the club through thick and thin.
“There have been some tough times but it’s a great place to be right now. Everybody that joins South Sydney now, they know this club is leading the competition both on and off the field. Membership has skyrocketed to 27,000, we’re sitting well on the table and we’re a competitive side on the field.”
For Asotasi, the emotions are somewhat mixed right now. He is excited by what the coming months might bring with Souths sitting pretty in second spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder yet well aware his time in the NRL is rapidly coming to a close.
Should all go to plan and the Rabbitohs make their way through to the grand final, he will have just six more games in the red and green before jetting off for the final chapter of a highly decorated career.
“I get a lot of people reminding me that it’s not long to go but for me it’s just about taking it day by day and enjoying the boys’ company – embracing the people around South Sydney because it won’t be long before the curtain has closed on my career at Souths,” he said.
“It was always going to be hard to leave the club I’ve been at the past seven years. I guess it was one of the biggest decisions of my career but when the opportunity came to play overseas and not have to play against the red and green, it made it a whole lot easier.
“At the end of the day I feel good knowing that I’ve left the club in a good situation and a good place. We just need to get over that last hurdle now which is getting to the grand final and taking it out.”
The first step in that process comes in the form of his old club Canterbury, who ended the Rabbitohs’ 2012 campaign with a memorable 32-8 win in the grand final qualifier.
South Sydney certainly haven’t forgotten the pain of that loss, having led 8-4 midway through the first half before halfback Adam Reynolds suffered a season-ending hamstring injury that changed the game.
“It’s always tough when you get to a semi-final and lose – you always want to go a week further,” Asotasi said. “It was a shame we lost our halfback so early in the game. That affected the way we played.
“But for us, we’re a different side to what we were last year and we’re better equipped if something happens to our halfback again. We’ve got players that can fill different roles and we’re a lot more confident this year too. We’re a different side.”