Up to preview five already and this time, it is on the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Falling short the last two years close to the final hurdle, Souths fans will be hoping that their team can go one step further and capture the elusive premiership. Will it be easy, definitely not – given the loss of crucial depth – but with Michael Maguire at the helm, a coach who can get the best out of his players, you would expect them to push as hard as possible once again to be thereabouts come finals time.
GAINS: Joel Reddy (Wests Tigers) Chris Grevsmuhl (North Queensland Cowboys) Nat Neale (Ipswich Jets) Kirisome Auva’a (Melbourne Storm) Joe Picker (Canberra Raiders) Lote Tuqiri (Wests Tigers).
Losing depth for your side is never a good factor heading into an NRL season but for the Bunnies, they have lost some experienced players either through retirement or departure and whilst they have tried to rectify that issue by signing some fringe players, the big test for the club is whether they can overcome any future injuries. With that lack of depth, the club may have to rely on some of their talented younger brigade and whilst they are chomping at the bit to have a crack in first-grade, many will ask if they are ready for such an opportunity should it arise.
As mentioned above, the final hurdle has eluded the Bunnies as when the crunch time came, other teams managed to put them away and progress. With several representative stars at their disposal, though, and a coach in Michael Maguire who has instilled a strong culture and work-ethic at the club, Souths are the sort of club that you would expect to see in or around the top four come the end of the season, such is the calibre of their team.
On the signings side, they have not been too impressive but merely added players to fill out their team. The real focus will come on some of their established players like Greg Inglis, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds and Chris McQueen, who will be crucial elements to the club moving forward if they are to have any chance of succeeding and being consistent come the 2014 season.
One player that might be under a bit of pressure is halfback Adam Reynolds. Well known for his ability to dictate the course of the game and control things as a half, last season was a bit of a downside for him – considering what he achieved in previous years – and with the likelihood that a young five-eighth is going to be thrust alongside him, the onus is on Reynolds even more than it already was.
His regular season form has often been good and he has featured in crucial attacking stats but for Souths fans, they will be expecting him to take his game to another level throughout the entire season, as he holds the key for Souths if they are to progress deep into the finals series. The question is, can Reynolds reach those heights and will he get support from his team-mates?
Another senior player who has a big responsibility in season 2014 is club captain, John Sutton. With Maguire seriously contemplating moving the hulking utility into the lock position – a position that many believe Sutton is suited to and should have already been playing in – the team dynamics for Souths will change but Sutton’s role itself will not change too much.
Ultimately, Souths will be looking to Sutton to play the conventional ball-playing lock role. In essence, that term is used to describe a player that has the skills to play in the halves but can also carry the ball up and create opportunities both close to the line and around the ruck area. For Sutton, such a shift may bring out the best in him – as he will look to continue his recent good form over the last couple of years – or it may take him a while to become accustomed to the role again. Either way, Sutton features as a crucial player for Souths and how he adopts the new mantle remains to be seen.
All in all, as previously mentioned, Souths are a side that you would expect to see in the finals come the end of the season. The talent is there, the experience is there and the culture is good. Their one downfall may be their lack of depth, though, and if there are some injuries, they will be forced to call on inexperience and youth – a move that may spur them on or backfire.
Player to Watch: Kirisome Auva’a. Recruited from the Storm, Auva’a joins the Bunnies with high hopes, a wealth of talent and a very real chance of playing first-grade at some point in 2014. Equally adept at playing in the centres or in the back-row, Auva’a was a player that many Storm fans had big wraps on and when the news came through of his departure, they were disappointed. With an opportunity up for grabs, the talented player has a chance to make the most of it. Strong, elusive and powerful, he uses his bag of tricks to good use and is a player that can have an impact in the NRL, should he get a chance.
This is the team I would go with – taking into account recent injuries:
1. Greg Inglis
2. Nathan Merritt
3. Beau Champion
4. Bryson Goodwin
5. Lote Tuqiri
6. Dylan Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Dave Tyrrell
9. Issac Luke
10. Sam Burgess
11. Ben Te’o
12. Chris McQueen
13. John Sutton (C)
14. George Burgess
15. Thomas Burgess
16. Luke Burgess
17. Ben Lowe