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My No.1 challenge is to play my own game: Taaffe

In an ideal world, Blake Taaffe's opportunities to play first grade would come beside Latrell Mitchell rather than because of him, but the youngster is again primed to fill the fullback role in the Rabbitohs' hour of need.

After debuting off the bench in round 15 last year in a 46-0 smashing of Brisbane which featured all the Bunnies' big guns, Taaffe took over in the No.1 jersey in round 17-18 and again in the final four games of the season when Latrell was suspended.

Of Taaffe's nine NRL games, six have been deputising for Mitchell, and that's where the 22-year-old finds himself again for the traditional Good Friday clash with the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium.

With Mitchell facing eight weeks on the sideline due to a hamstring injury, Taaffe is preparing to make every post a winner as he looks to help Souths find some rhythm after an unconvincing opening month.

"I have mixed emotions, I feel for Trell, he has worked so hard to get where he is now," said Taaffe, who played 66 minutes off the bench against the Dragons after Mitchell went off injured.

Taaffe knows the task ahead

"I can see another opportunity for myself like I did last year. I know what I have to do and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

"I got a lot of minutes last weekend which I wasn’t supposed to originally and I pulled up well. I'm confident I will get a full game this week."

Taaffe joins forces in the spine with his former under 20s team-mate Lachlan Ilias as well as superstars Damien Cook and Cody Walker.

Latrell tells me just to play to my strengths - don’t go out there and try to be someone else

Blake Taaffe

Ilias debuted in round 25 last year when Adam Reynolds was rested ahead of the finals and has looked more composed with each game he gets under his belt in 2022.

"I played 20s here with Lachy and we were lucky enough to win the competition," Taaffe said.

"It's good to be able play with him on the big stage and hopefully over the next couple of weeks we can showcase what we did in the 20s and show those combinations.

"And I love playing with Cody – he has taken me under his wing ever since I walked into the joint. I can ask him about anything, not just footy.

"As a young kid coming in here you see all the older blokes doing their extras and you feed off their energy and you want to be like them. What I see Trell and Cody do, I try and be like them.

"My mindset playing in the NRL is that I’ve got to be consistent. I need to help Cody, help Cam [Murray]. Do all my effort areas around the ball and do my job for the team."

Always on hand to offer a word of encouragement is Mitchell, who remains in good spirits despite his latest setback, which seems certain to rule him out of the opening Origin game for NSW.

Rookie Reflections: Blake Taaffe

"Trell's in a good head space. He's been good to me and he's always helping me," said Taaffe, who turns 23 next week.

"He tells me just to play to my strengths - don’t go out there and try to be someone else.

"There's a bit of pressure off me now, knowing what I have to do, and I just need to stick to my own game.

"We've got six winnable games coming up and if we can go out and really dominate in defence then we can put ourselves in a great position going forward."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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