Ben Te’o return a mixed blessing for Bunnies


THE return of Ben Te’o from suspension might have been welcomed by South Sydney fans, but cynics can argue the Queensland State of Origin forward is no good-luck charm.

Te’o has been thrust onto an extended bench for Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against Sydney Roosters after completing a four-match ban.

His comeback could not be better timed for long-suffering supporters hoping the bruising Maroons back-rower helps seal South Sydney’s first grand final berth since 1971, the year they last won the premiership.

But Te’o is no stranger to finals frustration himself.

His pain may not be on the scale of the Souths faithful still sweating on an elusive title, but Te’o has made a habit of walking away from a grand final decider a gutted man.

Remarkably, Te’o is in sight of his fourth preliminary final in five years. And let’s say he is due for a change of luck.

In 2009, Melbourne’s 40-10 thrashing of Te’o’s Brisbane ended Broncos legend Petero Civoniceva’s NRL career.

In 2011, Test captain Darren Lockyer’s NRL days were also over in Brisbane’s 26-14 loss to Manly.

And Te’o might also have played his last NRL game if South Sydney do not rectify last year’s 30-20 preliminary final loss to Manly and triumph over the Roosters.

Te’o joins Irish rugby club Leinster on a two-year deal at the end of the NRL season.

He has been named on a seven-man bench on his return from a ban for a round-23 chicken wing tackle on Queensland and ex-Brisbane teammate Sam Thaiday.

The Roosters welcome back prop Dylan Napa from a two-week ban.

French international Remi Casty is the most likely to make way after being relegated to 18th man.

‘‘Thankfully we have a fully fit squad and Dylan’s return is a welcome addition to the 17,’’ Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara said. ‘‘Few games get bigger than this.’’

At Penrith, Adam Docker is back from suspension for Saturday night’s grand final qualifier against the Bulldogs.

He is on an extended bench with Kevin Naiqama and Sam Anderson.

The Bulldogs have an unchanged 17 from their 18-17 semi-final thriller against Manly after back-rower Josh Jackson was cleared of a chicken-wing tackle and last round’s hero, Trent Hodkinson, (knee) received the green light.

Meanwhile, the NRL has switched video referees for the preliminary finals.

Bernard Sutton was with Luke Patten on video duty when they ruled Cowboy Robert Lui had knocked on, denying them the winning try in a 31-30 thriller won by the Roosters last weekend.

This week Patten will link with video ref Ashley Klein for the Rabbitohs-Roosters clash, and Sutton will partner Luke Phillips for Panthers-Dogs.