Hold your heads high, Manly and Souths
Brett Stewart scores for Manly during the NRL final rounds (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Grant Trouville)
Manly and South Sydney were both on the wrong end of the scoreboard in their respective elimination finals on the weekend, and are most likely still nursing sore heads as they contemplate the “what ifs” in the aftermath.
As the disappointment subsides, both teams ought to reflect on commendable 2012 campaigns that give promise for continued and further success in 2013.
Let’s take Manly first up; the reigning premiers carried the weight of expectation before a ball was kicked in anger this season. Manly were hamstrung with numerous lengthy injuries and were unable to field their best squad throughout the regular season.
Added to this was the disruption of Origin duties to key players, yet Manly were able to “turn up” week after week.
Incoming Geoff Toovey was on a hiding to nothing in the coach’s box, however confirmed himself as creditable, shrewd coach. Opposition teams knew that they would be facing a spirited unit when lining up against the Sea Eagles. Manly could be relied upon for attacking flair with plenty of points in them and a committed defensive all year.
Their performance on Friday night was un-Manly like. Forget the drop balls, the ill-discipline and the multiple defensive lapses, what was shown did not reflect what Manly brought to the competition in 2012.
It was clear that a number of players took to the field with injuries and with the bench consisting of four forwards, there was little in the way of outside back troops to call upon.
That is to take nothing away from Melbourne Storm who after a mid to late season slump seem to be taking their game to new heights when the big games are on. Cam Smith (who was under a fitness cloud himself) was at his scheming best and backed up by a willing forward pack, cementing the foundations for the win.
Slater, Cronk and the outside backs capitalised on repeated Manly lapses and ran riot out wide, often at the near crippled Matai’s expense.
We all know the result, Storm reach another GF and Manly are left to lament, for the time being. Looking forward, they have secured a pretty reliable ‘spine’ for seasons to come.
Snake, DCE, Foran, Ballin would be welcome additions to any of the also rans teams for next year. Jamie Lyon is in a class of his own; the way he has performed and led the club for so long.
While the ranks will be decimated somewhat next year with the loss of players Whare, Lussick, Williams and Oldfield, they seem to have a knack of unearthing players to capably fill the breach.
Manly may be licking their wounds for now but should continue to be a powerhouse in the 2013 season.
Moving onto to the Rabbitohs, I suspect this great club is on the cusp of something special in the immediate future.
Similar to Manly and Storm, the weekend’s result turned out to be a one-sided affair that did not reflect the season that South Sydney had.
This great club carries incredible expectation each year. Previous generations of McCarthy, Sattler, Coote and co considered it an honour just to be selected in the Cardinal and Myrtle.
The 2012 vintage can hold their heads high for a season that had them knocking on the door of greater glory.
New coach Maguire took the duties of head coach at NRL level like a seasoned campaigner.
Having served his apprentice under Bellamy at Melbourne and refining his skills in the Old Dart, Maguire instilled an immediate belief within the club.
Noticeably, the South Sydney of 2012 showed a defensive resolve that was previously questionable, particularly when under pressure. Their ability to cross the line was never doubted, but this year has seen the emergence of a more polished Rabbitoh attack.
Much has been said of Reynolds in his debut season (and rightly so), but looking further wide and Everingham has been equally impressive. Merrit continues to sniff out a try at any opportunity. Throw in the superstar that is Greg Inglis and Souths had other teams on notice that they are capable of scoring from anywhere on the park.
Sam and George Burgess have been juggernauts in the middle and on the edges. The return of Asotasi and his leadership with the evergreen Crocker gave South some serious cred in the forwards.
There are lots of highlights for Souths fans to reflect upon for season 2012. This year the mighty Rabbits gave some return for the promise and expectation. In one week for the lead up to the Bulldogs’ game, you could feel a groundswell of support getting behind the Rabbitohs.
No matter who you support, it’s hard not to get caught up in the emotion and passion that is South Sydney.
I imagine the result against the Bulldogs will spur this great club on that one step further in 2013. The addition of Te’o and Lima will bring starch to the forwards and more than cover for the loss of the at times brilliant yet inconsistent Dave Taylor.
Bringing our minds to this weekend’s big one, what an encounter this promises to be.
The regular season determined the contenders and the Dogs and Storm served notice they would be there or thereabouts come September action. Throughout the playoff series, though, both teams have shown their true premiership credentials with scintillating and inspired wins.
The first set the Bulldogs had with the ball on the weekend saw them blaze the length of the field in a display of sheer speed and power.
Meanwhile, much has been said about the Storm’s desire to raise the trophy this season. Should be a classic game.
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