Now that season 2013 is done and dusted with the Roosters crowned champions I do what I do every year and start counting down until the middle of March next year.
As a punter I look at the early odds and see that some betting agencies have installed the Rabbitohs as favourites for season 2014.
Well I can save Souths fans the Ebay fees and the embarrassment of having to offload tickets to Roosters and Manly fans by telling them not to waste their time buying grand final tickets.
And stay away from the TAB.
For the last two seasons the Rabbitohs have been a dominant force throughout the season only to come up dreadfully short when the big bikkies are on the line. And with the squad they have there is no chance of that changing in 2014.
For a team to challenge for a title it needs balance, variety and most importantly they need a sustainable plan B if things are not working.
I am not sure who is in charge of recruitment at Souths but the way they have gone about it has left them with a team without these things and a team incapable of winning against big teams in big games.
Maybe it works in the Coliseum in the movies but not in the NRL.
They rely entirely on big forwards running over the advantage line, getting quick play the balls and then going again or having Isaac Luke jump out of dummy half.
The majority of Souths sets could be played on a ten metre-wide field.
This idea of fast play the balls on the back of a big forward run is part of every team’s plan, but in Souths case that plan is the beginning and the end of how they try to score points.
The main problem they have is that their centres and wingers are not up to it.
Not one of Dylan Farrell, Dylan Walker, Bryson Goodwin or Nathan Meritt would play first grade at any of the other seven finals teams, and I doubt there would be another team in the comp that would have room for all four.
How Nathan Merritt played Origin this season is one for the please explain file.
Maybe three or four years ago he should’ve been picked and wasn’t, so selectors making it up to him now.
He will create a Matt Bowen-style problem at Souths and we will see if they are strong enough to deal with it the way the Cowboys did.
They also lack the creativity needed to bust a game open.
While their forwards are big and fast and are expert at landing on elbows and knees they do not have anyone with the ability to create on the edge like a Glenn Stewart style player.
Their seven six and nine get plenty of raps and while they do have some great qualities they are not great ball players.
Against Manly when Luke ran from dummy half the defence just aimed up at him and shut him down.
In fact there were times when they appeared to set him up to run knowing he could be contained.
He is without doubt the fastest dummy half going around but when he runs you know that is all he is going to do.
Lately there is a move back to the kind of dummy half that can ball play and set things up like Cameron Smith, Jake Friend, Robbie Farah, Matt Ballin etc.
None would come near Luke for speed but all of them put the defence in two minds.
John Sutton and Adam Reynolds were being trumpeted as Origin players and would probably be effective at that level but their lack the play making ability was there for all to see.
Sutton is a big strong ball runner who can be hard to contain but again is easy to read and contain by a quality committed defensive line.
Reynolds has a great kicking game but lacks the guile to create real space for his outside men.
Both the Roosters and Souths scored a lot of close range tries in season 2013 but they had a difference, the Roosters tries were scored by players like Boyd Cordner, Aidan Guerra or Mitch Aubusson running into holes from a perfectly time pass from Mitch Pearce or James Maloney.
Souths tries were usually a result of Sam or George Burgess or Lima or Clarke or whoever getting the ball and battering their way over.
They still count four points but these are a lot easier to contain by a good defensive line-up.
Finally, Greg Inglis is a superstar. He is one of the best in the game no doubt but is he as good as he needs to be given the reliance Souths put on him?
I don’t like to bag a champion but I will use a cricketing term to describe GI.
I believe he is a “flat track bully”. In other words when conditions give him a slight advantage he grabs hold of the situation and turns it into a total mismatch.
However, when things are not going his way he does not always deliver the same quality.
In Origin this year he scored one try from a bomb, got up and beat his chest in front of the crowd and was not sighted again.
The main reason for this is that he had Josh Morris opposite him who is as big as he is and probably the best defensive outside back in the game.
All GI’s plays that I remember this year have been in games that Souths were easily winning.
I can hardly remember him making an impact in the finals.
The only exception to this is when he pushed Sonny Bill Williams off in the Round 26 game but after that he was hardly sighted in attack.
Souths rely so much on him that they cannot afford him to have a quiet game and as good as he is he cannot carry the team.
In the finals they beat Melbourne and had Manly down 14 nil but in both cases this was gifted to them by a poor opposition.
Manly started the game in a nightmare but turned it around, Melbourne did not.
The big issue now at Souths is that the premiership window is open but through poor recruiting they may not get a chance to get through it.
They have spent a lot of salary cap on their forward pack but they have no variety and their backs are not first grade standard.
That they spent even more money on Ben Teo and Lima for this year only made the situation worse.
Dylan Farrell is leaving but they have only signed Joel Reddy, good solid player but not going to set the world on fire.
During the Round 26 clash there was the big sign in the burrow “scum forever in our shadow”. Sitting in seats purchased from a Souths supporter, the return sentiment was “call us what you want but we will be forever sitting in your seats on grand final day”!