Soliola seeks ultimate bragging rights against 'good mate' JWH

Sia Soliola remembers the first time he laid eyes on Boyd Cordner when he himself was a member of the Sydney Roosters.

The Canberra Raiders veteran was then a 24-year-old, plying his trade as he started to make his transition from an outside back to a man in the middle.

Cordner might have been on his Learner's Licence at the time, but Soliola said the Roosters captain and his opponent on Sunday in the NRL grand final was special right from the start.

"He made a really big impact at training, he was only 16 and very mature for his age and everybody knew he was going to be a leader the way he applied himself at training," Soliola said.

"It's going to be cool to go up against them, I've very good mates with Jared (Waerea-Hargreaves) but for those 80 minutes, we're going balls out at each other."

Soliola will also be locking horns with former teammates Jake Friend and Mitch Aubusson on Sunday at ANZ Stadium in what is amazingly a career first for the Raiders leader even after 15 years in the game.

"That's what I'm really enjoying about this year having that element of growth," he said of his first grand final.

"I get to experience this with guys like Corey (Horsburgh), Charnze (Nicol-Klokstad), Bailey (Simonsson) and we're at different ends of the age perspective but we're all doing this together, so it's cool.

"It's like going to school camp, you're really looking forward to it and you're counting down the days and you're trying to do your work but you’re too excited."

Match: Roosters v Raiders

Grand Final -

Full Time
Roosters

Home Team

Roosters

Scored 14 points
Raiders

Away Team

Raiders

Scored 8 points

Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network

Friend has been named on the reserves bench for the Roosters, despite playing only five of the side's last 27 games due to a biceps tear, forearm fracture and a calf muscle strain.

Soliola said the side expected Friend to play a big role in the decider despite the excellent form of starting hooker Sam Verrills.

"Mentally and physically I'd have Jake Friend in my team every day of the week," Soliola said

"I reckon a lot of his work rate goes unnoticed because he does it a fair bit and it gets shied away from compared to the other guys in that team.

"He does a lot of things that go unnoticed, but to us players, he has a huge role to play and he's one of their leaders and he's been around a long time and people look up to him, so he'll add a lot to the squad."

This week is not only Soliola's first grand final, but the last game of the season also doubles as his 200th NRL game.

The 33-year-old beamed with pride when speaking to NRL.com as he looked down at his commemorative jersey with the double-ton achievement sewn on the front of his chest.

"To do it with this club against the club I first started with, it's going to be a huge achievement if we can get over the line," he said.

"Obviously I'm pretty proud of the milestone, but to do it at a great club, with a great history and with a pretty neat bunch of fellas I couldn't ask for anything more."

It's been a remarkable journey for Soliola since returning from a four-year stint with St Helens in the English Super League with the man himself of the direction of his career when he answered a call from Ricky Stuart about maybe coming to the nation's capital.

"When Ricky spoke to me about what he wanted to achieve at the Raiders, first and foremost it was about winning a premiership," Soliola said.

"There were steps to go towards that and one of those steps was changing the culture at the Raiders, they had a pretty tough season in 2014.

"He knew that's what he had to change first and foremost, and it was going to be the first platform he wanted.

"I've really got to thank Ricky for bringing me here, not many people would have forgotten (me), people tend to forget (about you) when you go over and play Super League."

As if the week isn't big enough for Soliola, he is also in line to win the Ken Stephens Medal for his extensive community and charity work.  

Long having been known as one of the good guys of the NRL, Soliola's work in the last year has been recognised.

Angelman Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder which affects intellectual impairment, motor skills and speech in children.

Soliola carries the name of a child suffering the condition on his arm every game and shares their photo post-match via his Instagram account to help raise awareness.

"What I get a kick out of, when I send the photo win, loss or draw you see the comments of gratitude from families," Soliola said of the Instagram post each game.

"It's cool the Ken Stephens Medal can not only recognise players but their affiliated foundations and charities because players a really big part in raising awareness for the foundations.

"That's why I get excited about this medal, not only do the other guys do fantastic things for their respective communities but it shows how much this game gives."

He has also raised $50,000 for Kulture Break, a group who uses performing arts to help advantaged children, he has raised money as part of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, helps feed homeless people at a Canberra church.

Tickets for the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final 2019 are now on sale to the general public.

Tickets are available through Ticketek and nrl.com/tickets.