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O’Neill Humble and Focused Ahead of Grand Final

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Jersey Flegg Captain and Halfback, Joseph O'Neill says his team is ready to take to the Grand Final this weekend and do their best to make the Club proud.


After enjoying two solid wins in the first two rounds of the finals series, the side won't be leaving anything to chance. Rather they are working hard at training to ensure that when they face the Sydney Roosters for the second time in as many weeks, they give themselves the best possible chance at claiming a Premiership.

The two sides are fairly matched with their seasonal performances, but with the combination of last week's 26-6 convincing win and good striking power with the likes of Jordi Mazzone and Joash Papalii, the team can certainly have confidence heading into the grand final match.

O'Neill knows it's no time to get distracted though, stating that with the strong opposition side, they'll need to be prepared to go one better this weekend.

The Captain's message to his team is simple: "Just enjoy it."

"We always play our best footy when we are enjoying each other's company and enjoying playing. So, nothing changes. It's just another game and we've just got to work hard for each other and not let each other down."

Much like his childhood hero, Josh Reynolds, you would be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about his teammates, his Club, and what a Jersey Flegg Cup win would mean to the area - an area which is pretty special to him.

O'Neill has been around the local area since he was a kid. He played for the Revesby Rhinos for nine years and then the Berala Bears for four years after that.

He has come through the Bulldogs Academy, transitioning through the development systems, into the Harold Matthews Cup where he played his first Grand Final in Bulldogs colours, before then rising to SG Ball and Jersey Flegg. In 2023, he was called up to feature in six of the Club's NSW Cup matches.

Bulldogs Jersey Flegg Captain and halfback, Joseph O'Neill
Bulldogs Jersey Flegg Captain and halfback, Joseph O'Neill

As a player who has been in the Bulldog's system for years, he has dreamt of this moment, running out in one of the biggest matches he will have played to date. Yet he remains humble and focused on the task at hand, stating he won't be taking anything for granted when he lines up on Sunday.

"Obviously growing up playing all my junior footy for the Bulldogs, it would mean the world to me to eventually debut and play halfback for the team but I'll just take it day-by-day and year-by-year and just try and get better, keep developing myself and enjoying the boys company. Especially with weekends like this. They don't come around too often, so I won't be taking it for granted.

Each week, you can't take it for granted pulling on the jersey because there are a lot of people that would like to be in this situation, and be able to play. Just putting it on each week, it means the world to me and the rest of the boys.

"The chance to play in Grand Final doesn't come very often, so when you do make it, you've just got to try and grab it by both hands."

His humble perspective might be inspired by Coach, Luke Vella. O'Neill has been under his guidance for the last few years and credits his drive to the player-turned-official.

"He's always been a great coach. He has a lot of care for his players and he knows what it takes to win and train hard. He's always very competitive so you can take inspiration out of how competitive he is and bring that into yourself.

"You forget sometimes what he has had to overcome, but every time you remember it, you get inspired by him."

Vella was a fellow Bulldogs under-20's representative player who once had his sights set on achieving his own NRL dream. He starred as a talented hooker coming through the ranks before a tragic injury cut his dreams short.

In 2014, Vella was stretchered off the Sydney Football Stadium after suffering a career-ending neck and shoulder injury. The injury would result in permanent nerve damage and the loss of movement in his left arm. Despite the unfortunate injury, a love of football and a unique perspective would see him return to the game. In 2020, the local junior was appointed to lead the next generation of Bulldogs.

His optimistic viewpoint, and focus and determination no doubt having an impact on those he leads.

While inspired by their Coach, Bulldogs Head Coach Cameron Ciraldo has also been keeping a close eye on the playing group. Referring to them during a mid-week press conference as the future of the Bulldogs: 

“We've got a Flegg group in here that do weights at five o'clock in the morning, go and work for 10 hours and come back and do field [sessions] at 5.30 in the afternoon. That's a long day.

“The way those guys are going about their business is showing they are the future of the Bulldogs and that's who we are going to build the Club around.”

Despite the praise for their work ethic and Bulldogs grit, O'Neill says hard work is what the team has simply learned to live and breathe:

"We probably don't really think about it but in the moment, that's just kind of what we know and do. We all know that we have to work hard and train hard because that's what has got us to where we are now. There's no point in stopping or trying to take it easy. It's just sort of ingrained in us now."

The Bulldogs will play the Roosters in the 2023 NSWRL Jersey Flegg Cup Grand Final this Sunday, September 24 at CommBank Stadium (1:00pm).
The Bulldogs will play the Roosters in the 2023 NSWRL Jersey Flegg Cup Grand Final this Sunday, September 24 at CommBank Stadium (1:00pm).

With a hard-working skipper behind them and a chance at raising the Jersey Flegg Cup for the first time in 20 years, the Bulldogs outfit are looking to put on a show for family, friends and Bulldogs supporters who pack the Stadium on Sunday.

The match will kick off at CommBank Stadium at 1:00pm, Sunday 24, September. Tickets are available to purchase at the gate for $10.00 ($5.00 concession), and children aged 12 and under come free.

The match will also be streamed live on NSWRL TV via the NSWRL Facebook page for those who can't make it out to the stadium.

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.