EXCLUSIVE Easter showdown analysis
by Ben Barba and Greg Inglis
THEY are arguably the two most exciting players in the game – Canterbury Bulldogs livewire Ben Barba and South Sydney powerhouse Greg Inglis.
At ANZ Stadium this Good Friday (4pm kickoff), Barba and Inglis will line up opposite one another in the No.1 jerseys for their respective teams.
Both men are ANZ Stadium Ambassadors and they have spoken exclusively via our website in the countdown to Friday’s Easter showdown on Show Day.
BEN BARBA: I watched big GI steamroll his way over the top of Penrith fullback Lachlan Coote a few weeks back, so I know what’s coming my way if big GI breaks our line on Friday.
But I am really looking forward to the challenge of playing against one of the best players in the game when my Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs take on fellow ANZ Stadium home club the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
I’m always keen to test myself against the best players, and I have always considered Greg a very special player – ever since I first saw him playing in Queensland for the Norths Devils club.
Back then he was a strong-running fullback – my position at the Bulldogs and the position he has reverted to at the Rabbitohs this season.
GI and I are obviously two very different fullbacks.
While I try to use my speed and evasive skills to beat opposing players, GI – as Lachlan Coote found out – can just trample over people on his way to the line.
In some ways, GI is even more dangerous at fullback than centre because he gets more room to move and more time to wind up.
For any fullback, it’s a pretty daunting prospect having a 106kg GI storming towards you.
Some people have asked me how I would stop GI in full flight and, to be honest, it’s a bit like, “Pray to God and hang on for dear life!”
GREG INGLIS: I like the way Des Hasler has kept the lid on the Bulldogs’ impressive performances so far this season. They don’t want to talk up their game, preferring to keep things within their club, their society and their team.
Benny Barba is obviously towing the line there and underplaying his own skill level because at Souths we know how dangerous he can be out at ANZ Stadium on Friday.
Benny really does live up to his nickname – the X Factor. He surely is a tremendous player and the way he pushes up from the back and is often lurking around the luck ready to explode is very impressive.
He’s the type of player who gives his teammates plenty of confidence.
I’ve watched him develop as a player and he looks to be enjoying his football under coach Des Hasler.
The Rabbitohs will have to keep a very close eye on him on Friday, that’s for sure.
BEN BARA: The Good Friday game should be a beauty and I’m looking forward to seeing our passionate Bulldogs fans packing into ANZ Stadium so that the Rabbitohs don’t get a home ground advantage.
The crowd always plays a part in these home derby games.
So if we can get plenty of blue and white into the Stadium, the only difference for us at 4pm this Friday will be that we won’t be running out underneath the giant Bulldog!
There will be a lot of people out at Sydney Olympic Park on Good Friday, with the Royal Easter Show underway next door, so the fans should remember to take public transport if they have not pre-booked parking.
GREG INGLIS: There are no more passionate fans in rugby league than Rabbitohs supporters, so we expect it to feel like a home game at ANZ Stadium on Good Friday.
But it’s certainly important that everyone who supports the mighty Rabbitohs get out to the game so we do outnumber the Bulldogs army in the grandstands.
BEN BARBA: We Bulldogs need to focus on bringing our best game to ANZ Stadium against the Rabbitohs, who are coming off a pretty amazing win over Wests Tigers last Sunday.
GREG INGLIS: We pride ourselves on never giving up at Souths so, in all honesty, we never thought we were out of it against the Tigers even as the clock wound down.
We learnt a tough lesson in Rd 1 against the Sydney Roosters when we lost it in the dying seconds, so we are determined to play out our games right to the end.
A few people have asked me about that field goal that won us the game against the Wests Tigers.
I admit, that was only the third field goal of my career.
I got into position to kick that field goal purely to give my team options with the kick. I had nothing going through my mind or no pre-conceived plan – I just went bang and was lucky enough to see the ball hit the post and go over.
I muck around at training a bit and slot over a few field goals, but I’m not one for ever practising them over and over again.
BEN BARBA: Personal form? I’ve obviously been happy with my personal form, but I know I still have a lot of improvement in my game, and as a team we are not getting ahead of ourselves.
We know we are still developing our combinations and we can’t afford to have days like we had against the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium a fortnight ago when he dropped a lot of ball.
A few people have asked me about that 110m try last week against the Gold Coast Titans. That was pretty special. Having picked up the ball just short of our dead-ball line, I was lucky enough to get past a few defenders and found myself in the clear. Then Josh Morris loomed up and away we went – the length of the field.
Josh is one player whose form has been very sound for the Bulldogs this season, while Josh Reynolds has also done well in his first starting year.
And, of course, our captain Mick Ennis is leading the way in the forwards.
GREG INGLIS: One thing we know at Souths is that we are going to get better as a team – our best footy is ahead of us.
And I tend to think that will be the case with me at fullback.
I actually played most of my junior footy at fullback and was still playing fullback when I got picked up by Melbourne.
I’m working hard with the coaching staff on my positional play as there is no doubt the position of fullback has evolved since I last played there. But, of course, you could say that about any position on the rugby league field because the game has changed a lot. It is more physical than it ever was.
Tickets for the Good Friday Easter Showdown are available through Ticketek. Click here or call 132 849.
• As ANZ Stadium Ambassadors, Ben Barba and Greg Inglis write regularly for the ANZ Stadium website in the lead-up to games.