Graham and Walker ready for finals pressure
There's no need to guess how Rabbitohs winger Campbell Graham is feeling heading into his first NRL finals series after just 17 games in the top grade.
"For me being a local boy, I really cherish this club. It's close to home so I get to represent my area," said the Coogee Randwick Wombats junior.
"I came through the grades here so now to be living out the dream of being able to pull on a first grade jersey, and be in a NRL finals series, is pretty surreal.
"I'm hoping to do the club proud heading into the finals."
The 19-year-old has had his share of bad luck this year – a broken thumb and a wrist injury have limited him to 12 games – but he is not the only Rabbitoh feeling the heat of finals for the first time.
Five-eighth Cody Walker and back-rower Angus Crichton are also making their maiden trips into September football.
"It's exciting to play in my first finals series but I don't want to get there and just play a part," said Walker, who has scored a career-high 10 tries this Telstra Premiership season.
"I want us to keep winning."
After South Sydney missed September football in 2016 (12th) and 2017 (12th), they are sitting top-four heading into the final round.
Walker knows big matches need big-match players. He doesn't expect to suffer any kind of finals stage fright.
"Nah, I don't think so. I'm pretty level-headed – nothing sort of gets to me," the 28-year-old said.
"But I can't look too far ahead. We're shooting ourselves in the foot at the moment by not completing sets well," he said referring to three-straight losses to the Roosters, Broncos and Raiders.
"It's pretty simple to get back to where we want to be," Walker said.
An old hand at finals football is prop Tom Burgess and he sees no reason to get the jitters about heading into the finals via a rocky road.
"So we're not reading too much into this [last three losses]. Against Brisbane and Canberra we just didn't give ourselves a chance with errors," Burgess said of a woeful 51 percent completion rate against the Broncos and 64 percent against the Raiders.
"We know if we get that even share of [the] ball we'll be alright."
Walker thinks the round 25 clash with the Wests Tigers is the perfect finals' dress rehearsal.
"They play a type of chaos footy," he said. "They like to keep the ball alive and off-load a lot. Benji [Marshall] and Robbie [Farah] and Moses Mbye thrive off those sorts of things.
"It's mainly our ball control … we had eight errors on plays one or two last weekend. We're kidding ourselves if we think we're going to win games like that," Walker said.
"It's up to us to get through our sets and put the ball where we want to put it. We're putting too much pressure on ourselves and that fatigues us. We need to put fatigue into the opposition."