Friday 15 December 2017 / 03:20 PM

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS SEASON REVIEW

After a disappointing defence of their title in 2015, Souths brought back enforcer Sam Burgess with hopes of becoming genuine premiership contenders again. But 2016, though, went all pear-shaped for the Rabbitohs.

The Highlight

Their gritty determination against the Storm in Round 22. The Rabbitohs had won just five of 20 games at that point and had lost their last eight straight games. Despite losing by one in a heartbreaking golden-point result, it spurred the Bunnies on to win their last four games in convincing fashion.

The Lowlight

Their meek effort against the Raiders in Round 21 where they lost 54-4. Souths’ once-powerful defence looked disinterested, bored and uncaring as the Raiders ran riot.

Studs

Up front, young Nathan Brown provided the energy, aggression and spark which was usually provided by all of the Burgess brothers. Out back, Cody Walker had a great year where he covered both five-eighth and fullback brilliantly; the 26-year-old was named the RLPA’s Rookie of the Year.

Duds

Sam Burgess. The game’s top forward when he left at the end of 2014 and a formidable player in attack and defence, his return largely saw him seemingly unfit and lacking any real passion. He won the club’s player of the year gong, but provided far less impact than the Bunnies would’ve hoped for. Cameron McInnes had to fill the huge shoes of Isaac Luke, who joined the Warriors this year, but his inability to match the Kiwi stalwart’s influence was a big part of Souths’ woes this year.

Promise in store

Angus Crichton – the 20-year-old back rower is also capable of filling in at centre, and enjoyed a solid start to his career this year. He has plenty of potential and with a good off-season under his belt, could well prove to be a damaging wide-running backrower.

Best Win

Their last win of the year against the Bulldogs was the Rabbitohs’ fourth straight win, and one where they looked like the Souths of old. Powerful running in the middle, Inglis getting the ball when he needed it and a stubborn defence.

Worst Loss

Their 8-6 loss to the Dragons in Round 3, a game best remembered for Greg Inglis’ brain explosion on fulltime, attempting a field goal when his side was down by two. After annihilating the Knights and Roosters in their opening games, Souths were top of the table and in hot form. But something happened after that. Souths took two games to score 90 points but it took them the next seven games to match that. At the same time, their defence turned to mush. They won just three of their next 18 games after their opening two wins.

Injury Impact

Adam Reynolds missed five weeks early on in the season while John Sutton missed at least half the year, Alex Johnston was absent for a six-week stretch, Greg Inglis had a post-Origin spell on the sidelines, and twins George and Tom Burgess were regular absentees, which left Souths very bare in the experience department.

Off-field Atrocities

Russell Crowe’s verbal altercation with Luke Keary in the pre-season has seen the grand final-winning five-eighth leave the club, while serial offenders Kirisome Auva’a and Paul Carter were both sacked after further indiscretions.

The Coach

Michael Maguire’s fairytale run as Souths coach turned into a nightmare in 2016, with many questioning his versatility with game-plans and structures. After a nine-game losing streak, some were even calling for him to be sacked. The impressive turn of form in the last five games proved he can coach when his players decide to put in.

Recruitment Radar

Souths have found a remedy for their hooker woes by picking up discarded Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah. Farah’s speed and service from dummy half will have a massive positive impact for the Rabbitohs. Robbie Rochow is a handy backrow pick-up, while Penrith’s Robert Jennings will provide depth out wide. Brown, McInnes and Keary headline the departing brigade.

Dream Recruit

Keiran Foran – someone to take the pressure of halfback Adam Reynolds, who also has a very good running and passing game. Foran would be the man to help Souths become a multi-dimensional attacking unit again, on both sides of the field.

2017 Prospects

With Farah adding some much-needed direction and spark at dummy half, Souths could well start to recapture their 2014 form again. They will be confident of a return to the top eight in 2017.

2016 Summary

12th place – Won 9, Lost 15; For 473 (11th), Against 549 (11th)

[YouTube – VAC 2016]

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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