NRL Preview 2011: South Sydney Rabbitohs

Alan Nicolea Roar Rookie

By Alan Nicolea, Alan Nicolea is a Roar Rookie

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    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).

    Alan Nicolea
    Alan Nicolea

    Alan is one of The Roar's longest serving live bloggers, covering football, tennis and rugby league.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • Roar Guru

      February 28th 2011 @ 10:36am
      Mark Young said | February 28th 2011 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      They are very short price to win the permiership this year.

      I wonder if it is through sentiment, or reality.
      Only time will tell but they sure touched up the Tigers a few times last year!

      I think it rests entirely on the mercurial pairing of Sandow and Sutton. If they can be consistent, the Rabbitohs will be hard to stop.

    • Roar Guru

      February 28th 2011 @ 12:32pm
      The Barry said | February 28th 2011 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

      Agreed…Sutton is normally good for half a season of consistently good footy and Sandow one blinder every 7 or 8 games.

      Time is running out for Rhys Wesser who is still capable of great moments but a lot of his play is fairly standard these days.

      That means that 3 of the 4 “spine” players are prone to inconsistency.

      I’d also argue that Inglis’ reputation as being the best RL player in the world was largely built on his feats in Origin, Tests and Finals football. It’s been a fair while since he’s dominated in regular season footy for any length of time.

      Like most teams Souths have a lack of depth in the forwards and a few injuries up front might dent their top 8 hopes.

      $7 is ridiculous…

      • February 28th 2011 @ 8:04pm
        Timnaik said | February 28th 2011 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

        Lack of depth in the forwards TB? Where exactly?? Props – Luke Stuart, Roy Asotasi, Scott Gedes and Ben Ross. Backrowers – Dave Taylor, Sam Burgess, Ben Lowe, Dave Tyrrel, Michael Crocker, Shanon McPherson and Eddy Pettybourne. Hooker – Isaac luke and Beau Faloon.
        If there is a lack of depth its in the backs. No quality back up for 7, 6 and 1. That’s where Souths real problems are. how they could not get someone like a Tim Smith or Todd Carney when they were free agents is beyond me.
        Still they should make the top 8 this year on the back of a powerful pack. I just hope Sutts and Sandy can do the Bunnies pack justice and unleash the likes of Inglis, Merritt, Talanoa and Wesser when it really matters.
        Go you Rabbitohs!

    • February 28th 2011 @ 7:09pm
      Gibbo said | February 28th 2011 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

      They need to tighen their defence. You win games on the back of good defence. Sandow and Sutton need to do more. Sutton needs to run the the ball more. He`s devasting everytime he does this and the Bunnies normally win the game. In the end good defence frustrates good teams. Let them make the silly mistakes. Like the dragons and storm you just need to grind away, be patient. Need to vary their game a little close to the oppositions line. Every player needs to back himself. No head dropping. The whole team watches. Defence..defence..defence. Also, ball control. They need to control the ball better. No silly turnovers. You cant score without the ball. I`m tipping a big year if they get their defence right.

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