26 Sep 2014

End is nigh for three NRL superstars

6:26 am on 26 September 2014

The end is nigh for at least one of the NRL rugby league's biggest names when South Sydney take on the Sydney Roosters in Friday's preliminary final in Sydney.

Sam Burgess takes on Sonny Bill Williams. Roosters v Rabbitohs. NRL rugby league match. 2013.

Sam Burgess takes on Sonny Bill Williams. Roosters v Rabbitohs. NRL rugby league match. 2013. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The do-or-die encounter has more plotlines than a Hollywood thriller but most emotional could be at the final siren when Roosters pair Anthony Minichiello and Sonny Bill Williams or Souths superstar Sam Burgess potentially walk off ANZ Stadium for the last time.

Minichiello, who will make a record 302nd appearance for the tri-colours, hangs up his boots at the end of this season, capping off a remarkable career that started in 2000.

Williams and Burgess will return to New Zealand and England respectively to play rugby with the possibility of facing off in next year's World Cup.

Both Williams and Burgess have laid low this week in the build-up to a game many believed would be the grand final less than a month ago.

It's been 76 years since the two sides last met in a preliminary final and it was the Roosters who won through 19-10.

The two teams share the longest running rivalry in the NRL.

While the Roosters players know exactly what it takes to win a premiership, the Souths squad must work out how to make it past the final hurdle and get to a grand final.

It's where they have stumbled the last two years and in gut-wrenching fashion 12 months ago when they squandered a 14-0 lead against Manly to capitulate in the second half.

The team is also weighed down the milestone of not winning a premiership since 1971 and a long-suffering and expectant fan base.

In another delicious twist, in the Roosters coaching box will sit former Souths mentor Jason Taylor who's credited with having a major effect on Mitchell Pearce's recent good form.

Taylor and Alan Hill, Andrew Johns' former mentor, have both spent time working with the dumped NSW halfback and Maguire has been impressed with his recent performances.