The South Sydney Rabbitohs began last season with high hopes of a top four birth, thanks largely to a famed forward pack which boosted new buys Dave Taylor and Sam Burgess.
Whilst both Taylor and Burgess experienced solid debut seasons at the Rabbitohs, it wasn’t enough to guide the Redfern based club to their first finals appearance since 2007, with injuries, a lack of consistency and attitude to blame for their disappointing finish to last year.
The story of South Sydney’s season can be summed up in their last round loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Needing a win by more than ten points to secure a finals birth, the Rabbitohs let a great opportunity slip by when a weakened Dragons unit comprehensively beat them 38-24.
Having now secured the prized signature of former Melbourne Storm superstar Greg Inglis, the Rabbitohs will once again fancy their chances of a finals appearance in 2011, but there remains numerous obstacles in their path to securing a top eight birth.
As good as the Rabbitohs were in attack last season, they were equally terrible in defence, with their horrific display against the Penrith Panthers in round 24 the worst of a bad batch of inept defensive performances.
Conceding 40 points in a half of football is simply unacceptable, and it also demonstrated the meek attitude at a club which was still in contention for a finals birth.
To sum up their defensive woes, the Rabbitohs ranked terribly in points conceded (13th), metres conceded (11th), line breaks conceded (13th) and offloads conceded (14th). South Sydney also missed the most tackles of any team last season, missing 40.1 tackles a match.
The Rabbitohs hopes of making the 2011 finals will largely rest on their ability to defend resolutely in times of immense pressure. This is a must have trait if they are any hope of winning their first premiership in 40 years.
If they can get their defence in order, the Rabbitohs should comfortably make the finals in 2011 given on what they showed in attack last season.
Quite simply, the Rabbitohs were lethal with the ball in hand, only trailing the Penrith Panthers in points and tries scored respectively.
The Rabbitohs also made the most line breaks of any side last season, averaging 5.5 line breaks a match, whilst also rating highly in metres made (4th).
Indeed much of South Sydney’s attacking spark was generated by hooker Issac Luke. The New Zealand Test player only trailed Dragons fullback Darius Boyd in the Dally M Medal count when voting went behind closed doors.
Unfortunetly, injury ruined Luke’s bid to win the conveted award, dislocating his shoulder in a training mishap that saw him sidelined for six weeks.
Had he not been injured, the Rabbitohs would have probably gone on and made the top four given the form Luke was displaying at the time.
If Luke can remain injury free in 2011, the Rabbitohs possess a player capable of offering the quality ball necessary for Inglis to shine.
After averaging 24.3 points a match last season, it is scary to believe how good the Rabbitohs attack can become if Inglis replicates the form which made him the NRL’s best player during his time at the Storm.
Inglis is expected to be fit for the blockbuster round one clash against the Sydney Roosters, having recovered from hip and shoulder surgery according to reports in yesterday’s edition of The Sun Herald.
Whether or not Inglis reaches his peak at the Rabbitohs will depend on the form of halves duo John Sutton and Chris Sandow.
While Sutton and Sandow have shown glimpses of a solid partnership, they are yet to really convince as a halves pairing, and might struggle to feed Inglis the quality ball he was so used to getting at the Storm.
No doubt Sutton and Sandow will have to fire early in 2011 if the Rabbitohs are a chance of beating their fierce rivals, the Roosters, in the first round.
This time last season, South Sydney was the side expected to give the Roosters a football lesson.
What eventuated on that Sunday afternoon, however, saw the Rabbitohs suffer a huge blow confidence wise, and they will be eager to return the favour against a Roosters side coming off a grand final appearance.
A victory over the Roosters is a win unlike any other for the Rabbitohs, and will be hoping such a victory paves the way for South Sydney to go all the way in 2011.
The Rabbitohs certainly have the firepower necessary to win matches. Whether or not they have the steel to resist similiar attacking potency will prove the difference in them winning the premiership or missing out on the finals all together.
Why they’ll win:
- Now possess X Factor in Greg Inglis
- Burgess, Taylor and Luke form a terrific forward pack
Why they won’t:
- Sutton/ Sandow halves combination yet to fire consistently
- Rabbitohs defence not good enough
TAB Sportsbet odds:
Premiership winner – $7.00
Wooden Spoon – $34.00
Additions: George Burgess, Greg Inglis
Departures: Colin Best (Cronulla), Luke Capewell (Gold Coast Titans), Jaiman Lowe (Melbourne Storm), Beau Champion (Melbourne Storm), Jamie Simpson (Huddersfield Giants – Super League).