Re-born GI's quest for grand final glory
A photo hanging on the wall of Greg Inglis's home of the South Sydney captain with the Provan-Summons Trophy after winning the 2014 premiership is driving him to hold the NRL's most treasured silverware again.
Less than a year after Inglis contemplated quitting as he struggled to overcome a knee injury, the 31-year-old superstar has rediscovered his passion for the game and hopes to lead the Rabbitohs to a second premiership since joining the club in 2011.
In a wide ranging interview ahead of Friday night's qualifying semi-final against Melbourne at AAMI Park, Inglis:
- Declared he was likely to finish his career with the Rabbitohs;
- Revealed he had been on the verge of hanging up his boots during the last off-season;
- Discussed the pride he felt from inspired others to seek help for mental health issues;
- Nominated Brisbane as premiership dark horses and warned critics not to write of St George Illawarra;
- Called for consistency from referees in their interpretation of the ruck during the finals, and;
- Told how much the 2014 Premiership win meant to him.
After having his previous grand final wins in 2007 and 2009 with Melbourne in 2007 and 2009 erased from the record books over the club's salary cap breach, Inglis said he treasured the premiership with Souths so much he had a photo taken of himself with the trophy.
Inglis has the photo of him holding the trophy while sitting in his locker at ANZ Stadium after the grand final triumph over Canterbury framed and hanging on a wall at home as a reminder of how he felt to finally win a premiership he knew couldn't be taken away from him.
"What was going through my head then was what got stripped away from me in 2007 and 2009, and just to cherish that moment because you never know what is going to happen and you never know whether it is going to be the last time you get to hold that trophy again," Inglis said.
"One day I hope to get to hold it again, and within that 10 or 20 seconds it was just a reflection on those 2007 and 2009 premierships, where they got taken away - in the record books anyway. It actually gets put down in the record books with the South Sydney Rabbitohs."
After rupturing his ACL in the opening round of last year's Telstra Premiership, Inglis said he was happy just to be back playing finals again but admitted winning a grand final "motivates everyone".
"I would love to relive it, without a doubt, but it is just getting back after my ACL last year and missing finals footy the last two years, that is pretty much what is driving me," he said.
During his time on the sidelines, Inglis suffered mental health issues and was ready to hang his boots up before Christmas but he is now rejuvenated and considering playing beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of the 2020 season.
"I just love the place, I love everything it stands for and I love the community," he said.
"I have still got another few years there and who knows I might sign on for another one or two and call it quits after that.
"Mentally I was doing it tough but I am back now and I just love the game. There were times where I thought about hanging the boots up, which was only in November and December last year.
"You know when it is time to give it up when you watch a game of football and you don't feel anything whereas I was watching the boys train and I was like, 'that's what I want to do again'. That's what made me not hang up the boots because I still had the urge or that itch to play."
Inglis revealed he was still receiving treatment and said he would continue to encourage others to do so after speaking out publicly over his mental health battles.
"I don't see any dramas about it. I think more people should come out and speak about it," he said.
"If they do have any problems, don't be scared. You are only going to benefit yourself.
"It's so touching the people who reached out to me about it and the letters I get to home and the social media messages I get. Just me coming out and helping myself, I didn't realise the impact I would have to help someone else."
While the Rabbitohs finished third at the end of the regular season, Inglis believes the premiership race remains wide open and said a team from the bottom half of the top eight was capable of winning.
He nominated the Wayne Bennett-coached Broncos as the team with momentum but refused to discount the out of form Dragons.
"The Broncos have shown that over the last few weeks, they have obviously knocked us off, they knocked the [Roosters] off and they have just been playing very well," Inglis said.
"Anyone can win it. I know you are all writing the Dragons off but they will come out with a siege mentality that everyone hates them and obviously, they were booed off Kogarah a few weeks ago.
"I know that James Graham will be talking to his forwards about picking it up. Obviously, with Ben Hunt and having Gareth Widdop, their captain, back will boost their confidence."
The Rabbitohs beat Melbourne in round 21 while Inglis was sidelined with a broken thumb and stand-in captain Sam Burgess accused the Storm of wrestling tactics on the field but Inglis said he just wanted consistency in the ruck during the finals.
"If they are going to ref the way they have been all year I'd like to see it continue throughout the next four weeks and that will be one pleasing thing," he said.
"Whether they slow it down or speed it up I just want it to be free-flowing and consistent because everyone wants to see a nice clean game."
Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series