By Ben Blaschke, NRL.com
George Rose is sore. The big man doesn’t shy away from the fact that Manly has done it tough over the past month, with players forced to play through the pain of injury to battle their way through to a fourth grand final in seven years.
Yet while the pessimists are still half-anticipating fatigue to finally catch up with them, Rose believes their battle-weary bodies could well give Manly the edge when they face the Sydney Roosters in Sunday’s NRL grand final.
“I think it is an advantage,” Rose told NRL.com as he prepares to play his final game for the Sea Eagles before heading off to Melbourne next season. “It’s just that everyone is such a competitor in this team. Nobody really wants to lose and go out like that, which is why we fought so hard to come back from 14-0 down last week. That was massive.
“I’m not going to pretend it hasn’t been tough. We’ve had three massive games leading into this and we probably haven’t had as good a run as the Roosters.
“They’ll be going in 100% and will be firing so I have no doubt they will be the favourites because we have really done it tough. We’ve really had to fight for our wins and it’s fair to say we’ve been getting a bit sore and sorry. You start getting bruises on bruises on bruises. But I feel alright. I’ve got a few bumps and bruises but nothing too serious.
“To be honest, I’m feeling great anyway. I get an extra game with the boys and I’m looking forward to it. I didn’t want to leave too soon so there is one more game and I’ll be busting my back to get that win.”
Rose is one of a number of Sea Eagles forwards told to look elsewhere in 2014 with his 127-game Manly career set to come to an end this Sunday. And although he has come to terms with his departure after initially struggling to let go, his one big hope for next season is that Sea Eagles fans will still applaud him despite the fact he is joining arch-rivals Melbourne.
“I was a bit worried about letting it out at first because I know how passionate the Manly supporters are and their feelings towards the Storm,” he explained. “It was always going to be tough releasing that info to them but I’ve had a lot of great support from a lot of the supporters. Hopefully they don’t boo me next year.
“It was sad after how much I’ve been through at this club. You know, I never really wanted to leave. It was never my choice. I’ve sort of come to grips with that now but originally it was pretty hard to accept that it was going to be the end. But I’ve got a new chapter ahead of me, it’s going to be exciting, a huge change and I’m looking forward to it.
“I think it will be good for me because I’ll have to work hard to make my way into that team and I’ll get to experience a different culture, a different coach. I’m looking forward to playing under Craig Bellamy. I think it will be a great experience.”
For Rose, the opportunity to win a second premiership after his 2011 success also comes as an added bonus following a slow start to the season that saw him dumped to NSW Cup by coach Geoff Toovey.
“It makes you appreciate it a lot more,” he said. “I started the year in reserve grade and wasn’t real happy about that but to fight my way back into the team and be part of this big game, I’m pretty happy about that.
“I probably wasn’t enjoying my footy as much as I should have at the start of the year. I think I was losing my spark and I think I play my best footy when I’m enjoying myself. That’s how I felt on the weekend and that’s how I plan to go into this week as well.”
Although winning the title in 2011 proved a special moment for Rose after he missed the 2008 decider following a horrific leg injury that nearly ended his career, he admitted another premiership this season could be even better.
“I think it would mean a lot knowing this is my last game with this bunch of boys,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to not be playing footy with them next year so I’m going to enjoy every moment of this last game and do everything I can to get a win.”