Minor premier’s Wests couldn’t be more ready for final’s action says skipper Latu Talakai
Wests’ captain Latu Talakai has full confidence his top of the table side can translate their home and away form into a major semi-final win over UQ at Yoku Road this Saturday.
“I’ve got full confidence in our preparation and within the team that we will get the job done come this weekend,” Talakai told Rugby News.
The Bulldogs finished atop the competition table after eighteen gruelling rounds during which they accumulated twelve wins and four losses.
Wests’ near perfect foundation heading into this year’s finals has them feeling confident of doing one better than there heartbreaking loss to GPS in September last year.
“Building off from last year where we fell short in the playoffs I think we’ve done a lot of learning in terms of preparation and culture around the team,” the captain said.
“We’ve got a good mixture this year with young players which is probably the difference from last year.”
Coach Elwee Prinsloo has emphasised the need for his side to show mental resilience all season in preparation for games like this weekends against UQ.
Skipper Talakai is adamant his charges have taken this new approach on board and can deliver come Saturday afternoon.
“We are just concentrating on these little, minor learnings in our game in terms of tough minutes and tough phases of the game that we need to execute from what we didn’t quite achieve last year.”
Standing in the way of the Bulldogs are reigning premier’s UQ, whose win, loss record in 2022 mirrors that of Wests.
After opening the season in stunning fashion, these two well-matched sides will do battle once again to determine who progresses to the grand final on the 18th of September.
“Students are the champions for a reason… it’s going to be a big challenge at the end of the day.”
“They got us during the first round and then we got one over them the second time round so it’s going to be a tough battle but I’m pretty confident in our preparation and how we’re tracking.
“For us, we’ve just got to prep as we normally do and nothing changes.”
Talakai considers himself privileged to have led the Bulldogs throughout a stellar 2022 season thus far.
A Tongan squad member at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, Covid meant that the strongly built front rower was stuck in Australia.
Following a stint with Eastwood in the Shute Shield, Wests’ skipper says his expectations have been exceeded since arriving at Sylvan Road.
“It wasn’t until I was talking with my agent during the off-season of 2020 with Eastwood that I really wanted to try out Queensland… I thought ‘why not, let’s go for it’.”
“Shute Shield and the Queensland competition are both strong competitions here in Australia so I was like, ‘we’ve had a taste of Shute Shield let’s go and taste what Queensland rugby’s all about’ so here we are.
“It’s been great, so far, so good.”
The humble leader has been impressed by the stark development of individuals during 2022, something Talakai says has elevated the team’s output.
“It’s taken the whole squad but Conor is one of them who’s gone another level from last year.”
“We’ve got our flying Fijian (Ben Navosailagi) in the backs playing some great footy as well as Fletcher Spicer who’s been playing some outstanding footy.
“There’s many of the boys that I can mention but I think it’s taken the whole squad and this year I feel the mixture we have is why we are playing some good footy at the moment.”
With Wests poised for their best crack at a premiership in many years, the responsibility of captaining the Bulldogs is not lost on Talakai.
“It’s been a privilege actually… to lead these bunch of young men for this great club has been an honour.
“I’m just trying to, it’s a bit cliché, add on to what the last person has left the club.
“To lead these men is probably another highlight of my journey here in Queensland so I’m really grateful and honoured.”