Sad September for Souths
What a difference a year makes. Last year’s September was a golden one for Souths. Supporters watched in glee as the Souths juggernaut rolled its way into unbeatable form, dusting off archenemies Manly and Easts en route to the Grand Final.
One year on and the September story is a sad one for Souths, who were barely recognisable as the team that rose to glory in 2014. A series of visits to the Sydney Football Stadium knocked the confidence out of the supporters and the team. Week after week opposition teams pounced on an increasingly poor Souths team, who appeared unable or unwilling to summon the passion and determination they’d shown the previous year.
The lead up to the semi-final series saw Souths unravel. George Burgess found a unique way onto the suspension list, by throwing water bottles at opposition players. Others farewelled Redfern, such as Issac Luke after failing to address his compulsion to shoulder charge opposition players. Key players including Inglis and Sutton were hobbling either on or off the field.
By the time of the final game against Cronulla the faithful had lost their faith, with the Sharks inflicting a mercy kill on a team hopelessly out of confidence and lacking in hunger.
To top it all off, two of Souths’ most promising players, Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray, made post-season headlines after being rushed to hospital suffering from an overdose of painkillers.
It is hard to say what went wrong in 2015. Coach Maguire will point to the many injuries and the challenge all year in putting his desired team and combinations on the paddock. After all the praise directed at Maguire in 2014, rumours of an unhappy dressing room steadily emerged in 2015, gaining more and more momentum as the losses mounted. Maguire’s game plan was criticised. Too many predictable one-pass moves and not enough expansiveness or imagination. Others have accused the very disciplined and fit Maguire for overtraining the team and leaving them depleted of energy on the field.
All does not appear to be well in the state of Redfern, but losing teams are rarely happy places to be. The challenge for Maguire is big in 2016. All eyes will be on recruitment initiatives and whom he brings in to fill the gaps caused by the departure of Issac Luke and Glen Stewart. Souths supporters will be hoping that he can somehow win back the dressing room and reinstall the self-belief that took Souths to glory in 2014.