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Milne wary of Cleary aerial bombardment, but Souths winger holds no fear

Taane Milne is under no illusions about the barrage coming his way in Saturday night’s preliminary final against Panthers from the boot of Nathan Cleary.

He could look to his Fijian international teammate Waqa Blake, who crumbled under the high ball on the opening night of the finals out in Penrith.

Or he could ask the man whose wing spot he took, Jaxson Paulo, who struggled badly with the kicking of Claery’s replacement, Sean O’Sullivan, in the late regular season clash between the pair and found himself out of the team.

“I’ll be practicing this week,” said Milne. “It’s a strong point of his game, but we have to take it as it is. I’m sure he’ll chuck them up there and we’ll see how we go.

“It’s not just last week – he’s got all the tricks. We’ve got to prepare like any other week, we’ll analyse him and focus on our own games. I’m pretty confident that we’ll sort it out.

Milne has faced Cleary this year, but was in the centres when the sides met at the foot of the mountains back in March with Alex Johnston and Paulo tasked with fielding the kicks and trucking the ball back in.

“I haven’t had a chance to face him when we played this year, but I wasn’t in a position to catch them,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to have to worry about the kick pressure as well.

“We train every day to be a footy player, and (as a winger) that’s what you have to do: you have to catch bombs. At the end of the day, that’s my job, and I’ll be doing my best to catch those bombs.

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“They rely massively on their back 5. Why wouldn’t you when they’re such strong runners? For myself, I just prepare to play my game and what I can do for the team. The boys can go off the back of that.”

Milne was back on form in Souths’ win over the Sharks on Saturday night after being sin-binned twice in their week one victory over the Roosters, which left him sweating on a potential suspension. This time around, he will have a whole week to focus on the task ahead.

“I let the team down last week when we went down to 11 men, so this week I just focussed on my game and tried to keep it as clean as possible,” he said.

“I’m just happy we got there and we get a big game next week against Penrith. I’ve got no judiciary this week, so pretty happy about that! We roll into this week knowing our job.

“We worked really hard this year. Our goal is to win the comp and we’re one step closer. Last week was my first finals game and this was my second, so I’m just soaking it all in and trying to do my job.”

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