Ladder position: 12th
Points for: 464
Points against: 564
Top try scorer: Alex Johnston (22 tries)
Home Record: 4-8
Away Record: 5-7
Highlight of the season
Playing Penrith – the Rabbitohs thoroughly enjoyed themselves when coming up against the Panthers this season, starting in round six where they fought back to snatch a last-minute victory. A try to Michael Oldfield in the 76th minute and subsequent conversion brought Penrith level but Adam Reynolds nailed a field goal with seconds remaining for a 21-20 win, which gave their fans hope of a push for the finals in 2017.
Fast forward to round 17 and the Rabbits had only won two games since that thrilling victory. They came up against the mountain men again and taught them a lesson. The Panthers scored the first and last try of the match but conceded seven in between, with Reynolds in inspired form and Alex Johnston crossing five times.
Lowlight of the season
64-6! They came into their round 25 clash with the Storm on the back of three straight wins and were looking like they would finish the season strongly. It all came to a screeching halt thanks to a hefty reality check from the Minor Premiers. The Rabbitohs quickly realised they were in over their heads against the well-oiled machine that is the Storm. They were 12-0 down after five minutes and it only got worse from there. Melbourne were ruthless and piled on 10 tries to remind the Bunnies of how far they need to go to compete with the best.
Another lowlight was their record low crowd figures. Averaging less than 11,000 spectators per match ranked them as the worst in the competition and they’ll need to supply a more competitive brand of footy in 2018 to bring the fans back to ANZ Stadium.
What went right
Not a whole lot, obviously. They managed big wins over top eight sides Penrith and Manly that showed their potential but consistency was hard to come by. They were gritty in their narrow losses to the Storm, Eels and Broncos between rounds 11 and 15 and even followed those positive signs with back-to-back victories. They couldn’t keep the momentum going though; another narrow loss, this time to their finals bound rivals the Roosters, kicked off a four game losing run that was their worst period of the season. Despite having basically all of their key men missing in round 26, they were spirited in their defeat against the Eels.
They could only manage successive victories on three occasions throughout the season, winning two in a row twice and stringing together three consecutive victories once. Michael McGuire, if he remains at the helm, will be desperate to rediscover the Premiership winning mentality instilled in his 2014 squad and bring better results in 2018.
What went wrong
You can look at what transpired in round one as a catalyst for their sub-par season. Greg Inglis ruptured his ACL in the early stages of the match against the Wests Tigers but unbelievably played on into the second half. His hobble to the try line just before half time showed that he needed to come off as he re-emerged for the second half clearly injured. The Rabbitohs did their best impression of their marquee man and limped through the rest of the season, lacking the leadership and continuity that they would’ve been counting on from the Queensland and Australia representative.
A big chunk of their salary cap is being chewed up by the Burgess boys and they didn’t live up to expectations or their substantial pay cheques. Sam always plays his heart out and leads the side with his work rate but the errors and ill discipline from all three would’ve left their fans frustrated and questioning whether the money could be better spent moving forward.
Stand out player
It’s hard to go past the ever-reliable Johnston. He scored one more try than in his breakout 2014 season and has now scored 71 tries in 83 games for the Rabbitohs. He showed that he can be just as dangerous playing fullback as he is when on the wing, with some impressive performances in the number one jumper. Unfortunately, he finished the season on the injured list and was only just pipped at the post by Suliasi Vunivalu for the competition’s leading try scorer.
Cody Walker started the season in scintillating form and while his output dipped in the second half of the year, he ended up with six tries, 17 line breaks and 17 try assists. A special mention also goes to Angus Crichton, who came on in leaps and bounds this season to become a dangerous back-rower. His toughness can’t be questioned, having played the majority of the second half of the season with a fractured foot. Who could forget his barnstorming hat-trick against the Titans back in round 15 too.
He made his debut in round eight and only played nine games this season but Cameron Murray has made an instant impression. The youngster looks to be tailor made for the lock forward position and his work rate is what every modern day coach dreams of. Against the Dragons in round 22, he came up with 39 tackles in 50 minutes of game time and followed that up with tallies of 39, 47, 47 and 37 in the following rounds. Sam Burgess may have to permanently shift to the front row in 2018 to accommodate the rookie, who the Rabbitohs will be secure for the long term. Another youngster South Sydney fans will look forward to seeing more of is Tyrell Fuimaono, who managed 15 games in the second row and centre positions in his maiden season, grabbing two tries along the way.
Recruitment for 2018
2018 Gains: Jesse Arthars (Storm), Dean Britt (Storm), Dane Gagai (Knights)
2018 Losses: Bryson Goodwin (Leigh Centurions), Aaron Gray (Sharks), Dane Nielsen (released), Robbie Rochow (Storm)
Not a huge amount of action in the transfer market from the Rabbitohs yet but that could change with the salary cap for 2018 finally set in stone. Many clubs will look to balance the books in the off-season through offloading players. Dane Gagai is a massive signing who will add representative level strike power to their back line and will be an upgrade on the departing Aaron Gray. Securing the likes of Johnston and Campbell Graham for several years to come provides further promise for 2018 and beyond.
Players, coaches and fans alike will be waiting with bated breath to see how Inglis performs in 2018. He will be 31 by the time the new season comes around. You’ve got to think his speed and agility will be affected by reconstructive knee surgery and there will also be a question mark over his state of mind, having spent some time in a mental health facility following that injury. But there is no doubting the man’s pedigree, so for the Rabbitohs’ sake and rugby league in general, lets hope Greg can get back to his best next season.
Souths fans will be excited by the signing of Gagai, who was named the player of the series in this year’s State of Origin. He has shown his immense talent in a struggling Newcastle side over the last few seasons and will be hoping to take his game to the next level with the Rabbitohs. McGuire will have to find the right balance in his back line though, having experimented with Walker and Johnston at fullback in 2017. Inglis has, of course, excelled in that position throughout his career but may be better suited in the centres. If McGuire can get his back line in sync and improve the output of his forward pack then they will be a much more dangerous and competitive side next season. With the likes of Crichton, Murray and Fuimaono gaining more experience they should improve on this season’s performance and maybe claim a finals spot.
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