A rosy year for Rabbitohs
Wake me up, I’m dreaming! The Rabbitohs are starting the season as one of the premiership favourites. And unlike previous years this talk is not just coming from deluded supporters on an annual season preview drinks session. There is nothing romantic or wishful in this talk. It’s being made by a multitude of sane and objective observers. And it’s hard to disagree that the Rabbitohs have got a big chance this year.
While the team on paper will get much of the credit, it’s the confidence and straightforward approach of coach Maguire that impresses many. In just his second year of NRL coaching Maguire has shown that he is approachable, tough and focussed. He continues to take the hard decisions on discipline (including dropping Redfern demigod Nathan Merritt for his narcoleptic lapse on Charity Shield eve). Most importantly, he has looked hard at the South Sydney entourage and has come up with an uncomplicated game plan where timing and discipline are paramount. It’s an approach that suits this large and powerful team.
A bulked-up and very committed Greg Inglis is another reason to rank Souths as one of the more fancied teams. At 109kg and displaying sublime skills, the scarily committed Inglis looks set for a super season with many people predicting the Kempsey-born Queenslander as the 2013 player of the year.
In 2012 John Sutton displayed an important ingredient that was lacking in previous years – consistency. Although still the NRL’s largest and most unlikely five-eighth, his combination with Inglis and his commitment to take on an increased workload and the opposition defences has made a huge difference to this team.
Souths’ 2012 season unofficially died when Adam Reynolds’ hamstring snapped in the penultimate game, demonstrating how pivotal this skilful and thoughtful half is to this team. And with Luke Keary, a very smart and highly regarded half, coming up this year from the Under 20s, there will now be some options should another injury befall Reynolds.
The awesome foursome, aka the Burgi Bruise Brothers, will get plenty of publicity this year. Sam in particular seems to find the camera wherever he goes. However, with the injury to Luke Burgess, the media dream of all four playing in the one game seems a long way off. George seems to have lost the puppy fat of his first couple of years and this now rangy monster appears ready to make some dents in the defence lines at first-grade level.
The signing of Ben Teo should more than adequately cover the loss of Dave Taylor. While Taylor did some amazing things at times and had an unusual ability to find his way into highlights packages, his lack of mobility in defence caused loads of anxiety for his centres and wingers and was constantly exploited by the smarter teams in the competition. Teo, who appears to be a more agile and intelligent player, knows how to tackle and also runs good lines in attack.
Our centres seem to be our weak area. The prodigal son Beau Champion has returned, but as willing and red-and-green as Beau is, he is not the sort of centre who will elude the defence too often.
Dylan Farrell has skills but lacks consistency. He has shown that he is an intelligent footballer with a skilful passing and kicking game but he needs to take his game to a new level to avoid the emerging Dylan Walker, Tyrone Phillips and Mitch Bucket (is that pronounced “Bou-quet”?) pressing for his spot. Even with the sad loss of the immensely talented but erratic James Roberts, the future looks rosy, with the astute work of recruitment manager Mark Hughes et al already bearing fruit, with the promise of more to come in the years to follow.
Last year the SSH fearlessly predicted that Souths would finish sixth and we were pleasantly surprised when they came in third. This year we make the even braver prediction that Souths will be in a Grand Final for the first time in 42 years and finish a gallant second to the very good Melbourne Storm team.
Hopefully, with red and green streamers flying all over this town, a groundswell of support will again nudge this team beyond predictions and give us the hugest of pleasant surprises in 2013.