After spending more than half the year leading opposed sessions against South Sydney at training, Robbie Farah believes the Rabbitohs are premiership "specials" but the veteran hooker has no regrets about returning to Wests Tigers and has confirmed he will finish his career with the club.
Few outsiders have a better insight into why Souths are the NRL competition leaders than Farah, who draws satisfaction from Damien Cook’s rise to become the NSW hooker even though he confined him to the Intrust Super Premiership with North Sydney for all but one match this season.
Farah has passed on his inside knowledge to Tigers coach Ivan Cleary but acknowledges the information will be of little use if the team don’t starve the Rabbitohs of possession and make the most of their opportunities as they did in last Sunday's 20-16 upset of St George Illawarra.
The former NSW hooker will celebrate his 250th Telstra Premiership appearance for the Tigers in Saturday’s clash with Souths at ANZ Stadium and admits he may not have many more games left in his illustrious career.
Farah will only play on with Tigers
Ideally, the 34-year-old would like to make a decision on his future before the Tigers final match at Leichhardt Oval [round 23] against the Dragons on August 18. But Cleary may want to wait until the end of the season.
"The decision might not be mine," Farah said. "If they don't offer me a contract I won't be searching for another club so I will be finishing here one way or another.
"If the Tigers say to me, 'We need to wait until the end of the season to make a decision based on numbers or salary cap', so be it.
"If I wake up one morning in the next couple of weeks and I think 'This is it, I am done', I will come out and make an announcement and I can have one last game at Leichhardt and sail off into the sunset, hopefully after September [finals]."
While Farah is hopeful the Tigers can make the play-offs, the Rabbitohs are guaranteed a place in the finals and Farah is convinced they will go all the way.
However, he still believes the Tigers can spring another upset and spoil celebrations for John Sutton's achievement as the first player in the foundation club's history to reach the 300 game milestone.
"In my opinion they are deadest premiership favourites," Farah said.
"Having watched footy and having been there, I think it is going to take a pretty special effort to beat them this year and I think they are specials to win the grand final, so there is no expectations on us this week other than to go out and have a dig.
"They are top of the ladder so they don't have many weaknesses. But no team is perfect and every team is vulnerable in certain areas and, I guess, against certain structures that you throw at them.”
Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs - Round 19
Farah knows first-hand how the Rabbitohs like to play after training in opposition to them for most of this season, and he revealed that they did not always get their way in those sessions against the Bears.
"My job every day at training was pretty much to lift the Bears boys and makes sure we competed against the NRL side so they could prepare well for the weekend,” he said.
"We'd obviously run opposition plays they were likely to come up against on the weekend, and we took it as a challenge to try and beat them. I'd always grab the Bears boys and say, 'Let's beat them today'."
"At times, we did beat them at training. I know first-hand how they play, there's no doubt about that, but I also know first-hand how hard they are to stop.”
One of the keys to Souths success this season has been the form of Cook, who starred for the Blues in Holden State of Origin and is favourite to inherit the No.9 Australian jersey vacated by Cameron Smith.
Farah, who played 16 Origins for the Blues until 2016, said he was proud of Cook's achievements after training alongside him for 18 months until his release to join the Tigers before the June 30 transfer deadline.
"We had a really good relationship at the Rabbitohs," he said. "At training in the pre-season, if we were doing fitness we were always pushing each other, trying to make each other better.
"I know he has battled for a few years at different clubs trying to get a crack and get his spot. He got that this year and credit to him, he made the most of it.
"If you ask Cooky, he will always tell you how passionate a NSW man I am. I always spoke to him and Angus Crichton about how much I hate Queenslanders. I always tried to instill that hatred in them."