'Beating Souths bigger than top spot'
Trent Robinson doesn't need The Book of Feuds to know just how much Thursday's clash between the Roosters and their arch-rivals South Sydney means.
On the eve of a century of stoushes between the foundation clubs back in 2008, Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe turned town crier with the release of a weighty volume decrying the Roosters "had lost their soul" and lacked the "tradition, stories or the romance that is South Sydney".
Six years on and for all the Bunnies' dominance of the '50s and '60s, the Roosters' regular sampling of the red and green's juniors smorgasbord, and even the touch of Hollywood added by their respective owners carrying monikers of 'The Gladiator' and 'The Godfather', the on-field rivalry between the two clubs is as strong as ever and will hit its height come their final round fixture at Allianz Stadium.
Twelve months since the neighbouring outfits came together with the 2013 minor premiership on the line, we're back to do it all again, this time on Chooks turf.
While Manly hold the inside running to finish in pole position, an unsuccessful outing this weekend for the maroon and whites will see either the Roosters or the Rabbitohs to lift the JJ Giltinan shield and pocket a cool $100,000 for their troubles.
Which, according to Robinson – trained in the ways of rugby league's oldest war since his junior days with the Tricolours in the mid '90s – comes second to securing bragging rights over the Bunnies.
"Ever since you become a Rooster you understand the rivalry between Souths and Roosters," Robinson says.
"It's always an important game... It's about the people in our area and also about trying to stamp our authority in the area and I know Souths feel the same.
"We know who we play for, and that'll be a part of that tomorrow night.
"I know finals are next week but it's bigger than a normal round game and it'll be game on tomorrow night.
"Sometimes the build-up comes from the outside but it is just as much within the teams as well.
"[The minor premiership] is a bonus, not a focus, if we are good enough we'll finish in first spot, but the focus is on the battle with Souths."
As if getting one up on their bitter rivals isn't motivation enough for the premiers, the match will also be the last regular-season appearances of retiring skipper Anthony Minichiello and rugby-bound superstar Sonny Bill Williams in front of the red, white and blue faithful.
Robinson says wanting to send the pair out as winners in their final home games for the club provides added motivation for the Roosters, but will not become a distraction in the lead-in to the match or their looming finals campaign.
"It is in the back of our minds, it's hard when you're on a task," Robinson says.
"This is a huge one for Mini and Sonny. Our last game in front of our supporters on our territory and that's important.
"So we will celebrate that tomorrow night as we should, but we're still on task for that one goal that we want."
Robinson was not surprised Souths hooker Issac Luke had avoided suspension for a dangerous contact charge after kicking out at Bulldogs skipper Mick Ennis last weekend. Likewise he says he has no issue with the Rabbitohs' wrestling tactics that have attracted plenty of attention recently, with Ben Te'o, George Burgess, Chris McQueen, Issac Luke and Kirisome Auva'a all cited for chicken wing or crusher tackles in the past month.
"I think they've copped their penalty when it's come time, and when they [wrestle] well they win games," he says.
"That's footy and we've got to be able to back our style of footy to beat that."