South Sydney’s remarkable late-season surge continued with 28-10 thrashing of finals-bound Canterbury on Friday – the Rabbitohs’ fourth straight win, after previously losing nine straight.
After kick-starting the Warriors’ fadeout in Round 23, Souths disrupted Cronulla’s minor premiership hopes, thumped Newcastle and have now put a major dent in the Bulldogs’ title credentials.
Behind 12-6 at halftime, the Bulldogs pulled back to within two points when Josh Reynolds scored a long-range try against the run of play, but the Rabbitohs posted three tries in the last nine minutes as Aaron Gray and the departing Joe Burgess completed doubles.
Canterbury’s woes were compounded with captain James Graham getting put on report for lashing out at fellow Englishman Sam Burgess with his boot. Though he didn’t connect, the intention was there from Graham and he could find himself in a bit of bother.
— Aaron Thomas (@azsportza) September 2, 2016
The Rabbitohs’ unlikely turnaround – after losing 13 of 15 games from Round 5 to 22 – continues the grand tradition of also-rans finishing the regular season with a flourish and disposing of heavyweights in the role of pesky spoilers.
1987 – North Sydney Bears
Hapless Norths provided cause for optimism towards the end of the ’87, winning their last five games after only chalking up six victories in the first 21 rounds. The Bears accounted for fellow stragglers Penrith and Wests, before thumping defending champs Parramatta, and accounting for eventual premiers Manly and fifth-placed Souths in their last two outings. It proved to be a false dawn, however – the Bears would not return to the finals for another four years.
1991 – Brisbane Broncos
The star-studded Broncos struggled for consistency throughout 1991, failing to win more than two games in a row in crafting an 8-9 record over the first 17 rounds. Their finals hopes dead and buried, the Broncos went on a rampage during the last five weeks of the regular season, downing two-time premiers Canberra and demolishing second-placed Norths 44-6.
1996 – Canterbury Bulldogs
Torn apart by the Super League war, defending premier Canterbury won only one of its first eight games and sat in 13th with a 6-11 record at the end of Round 17. The Bulldogs rallied to win their last five games, including an away win over the Warriors that proved crucial to the Auckland club missing the finals.
1999 – Auckland Warriors
After taking over from Frank Endacott in controversial circumstances at the end of 1998, Warriors coach Mark Graham’s first season in charge went poorly. The inscrutable club won just five of its opening 20 games – including a stretch of 10 games that netted just one victory. The Warriors flicked a switch over the last month of the season, though, with their four-match winning streak featuring a 32-18 defeat of eventual grand finalists St George Illawarra and an incredible 42-0 rout of finals-bound Newcastle.
1999 – Manly Sea Eagles
Auckland wasn’t the only also-ran making a late charge in ’99. Bob Fulton stepped down as coach after Manly lost its first seven games, while incoming mentor Peter Sharp had the Sea Eagles trying to stave off the wooden spoon with a 4-12 record at the end of Round 17. They rallied with five wins and a draw against a Brisbane team on an 11-match winning streak during the last eight rounds, climbing from equal-last to 13th.
2005 – Newcastle Knights
The Knights, ravaged by injury, lost their first 14 games in 2005. But the Andrew Johns-inspired outfit was the form team of the regular season’s latter stages, winning six games in a row – including victories over eventual finalists Parramatta, Melbourne, Manly and Cronulla – before going down in a thriller to title favourites St George Illawarra in Round 26. Newcastle’s charge sparked calls to introduce a ‘wildcard’ team into the finals. Meanwhile, the Knights set a premiership record for the most wins by a wooden spoon team (8), and Johns finished one point behind winner Johnathan Thurston in the Dally M Medal after polling 28 points out of a possible 36 in his last 12 games.
2005 – South Sydney
Souths would have finished with the wooden spoon thanks to Newcastle’s incredible rally, but they staged their own turnaround after winning only three of their first 16 games. The Rabbitohs chalked up six victories in the last eight rounds, downing top-eight team Cronulla twice and accounting for both of the previous year’s grand finalists, the Bulldogs and the Roosters.