Maguire receives a lesson from Bellamy
The Storm showed the Rabbitohs how to win an NRL final (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay).
When Russell Crowe snared the former Melbourne assistant Michael Maguire, and the mighty Greg Inglis, he had a right to feel he had completed the jigsaw. A star-studded team instilled with a Storm-like discipline.
Last night’s Qualifying Final against the Storm proved there is still work to be done if the club is to break its forty-one year premiership drought.
Maguire probably saw the writing on the wall when Ryan Hoffman scored in the opening minutes.
You see, Hoffman did the same thing in the fifth minute of the 2009 Grand Final against Parramatta and the Storm were never headed. Maguire was the acting waterboy then, and he gave Hoffman a drink. Last night he would have served the ever threatening second-rower poison if he could.
Most neutral supporters, understandably, wanted the success starved Rabbitohs to win. Andrew Johns definitely did: “I like Souths . I really like them. I think they’re really special.”
Dominating pre game conversation were the reasons they are special: Sam Burgess (“This guy is absolutely world-class. He’ll be damaging tonight”) , Greg Inglis (“Cannot get any better. If he does it’s illegal. He’s frightening… he is so good”), and Adam Reynolds (“His kicking game is first class. And also his goal kicking. He just doesn’t miss”).
But the Storm, who have one of the smallest and reject-ridden forward packs in the competition, lost their biggest prop Jason Ryles and their most potent second rower in Sika Manu before the game. They were also without lock Todd Lowrie, winger Matt Duffie and centre Will Chambers. And yet they smashed the bunnies.
Bellamy does his homework. Rarely do opposition stars dominate games against his team. Burgess had a good game on paper but didn’t appear to have a great influence. Inglis’s statistics weren’t too bad either – 167 metres, 15 runs, 6 tackle busts and a linebreak – but most of them were performed after the game was gone for the Rabbitohs. Reynolds’ kicking under pressure was awful and he only got one conversion opportunity.
I think Greg Inglis, who never wanted to leave the club , and Matt King, who wanted to return to it after his stint in England, are too close to the Storm players to perform at their best against them. Michael Crocker, on the other hand, doesn’t let his fondness for his ex teammates prevent him displaying his usual aggression.
I’m not sure what the game says about either team. Were South Sydney simply unprepared for the intensity of a finals match, or have the Storm re emerged as a real premiership threat?
Perhaps it was the thrashing South Sydney needed to have in order to get to the next level. Certainly, Maguire’s “We’ll get a lot out of that” suggests he is taking it as a important lesson from the master.
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