Throughout their illustrious history St George have claimed a very impressive 15 Premierships. While South Sydney hold the record with an astonishing 21 Grand Final wins. While this season alone the two great clubs sit 1st and 2nd on the ladder, respectively. Among the highlights from the Dragons current campaign have been putting up 34 on Brisbane in their opening game, absolutely belting the Gold Coast by 46 points and beating their arch-rivals Cronulla 40-20. As for the Rabbitohs the major ups from their season have included killing the Sea Eagles 34-6, beating the Dragons 24-10 and scoring 42 points against the Eels.
However, despite all of these positive attributes from both sides respective seasons, there still remains the elephant in the room. For St George it’s how they were the runaway leaders of the League last season before they faltered where it mattered most to lose eight of their final 12 games and finish in 9th position. While for South Sydney it wasn’t all that long ago that they were the Premiership winners in season 2014. A victory that took them 43 years to claim. So with all of that in mind, here’s why the two best teams from this years edition of the NRL will not be hoisting aloft the Premiership in October.
In season 2017 St George finished up with a points difference of +83. That was good for 3rd best in the comp, behind only Melbourne and Brisbane. The Cowboys finished ahead of the Dragons and they were only +24. They won eight of their opening 12 games. But from there they would massively choke and win only five of their 12 matches that were left in the season. Paul McGregor was the coach of that ‘infamous’ side and still is the head man today. While he has held the reins at the Red V since 2014 he has featured in only one finals game. This was a game that ended in defeat and his side only just put up double-digit points (10). While major players from that side still feature prominently in today’s side such as Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop and Jack De Belin. The question here is why won’t history repeat itself? Not to mention that choking side featured Dugan, Frizell, Sims, Merrin & Packer in it, all representative players.
43 seasons of NRL to finally get the monkey of their back, yes you read that right, 43!!! As John Sutton lifted the Premiership and thousands of fans cheered for their side that finally broke the drought. Since that campaign, there have been three more. In 2015 they featured in the finals, however, in the following two campaigns they finished in 12th place both times. Now with a rookie coach in the form of Anthony Seibold and some young players in key positions, it might just be too much to ask of them to go all the way this season. The weight of expectation and inexperience does not work favorably for the traditionally ‘battlers’ side.
If you want to win where it counts you have to be able to overcome the big guns. Recently it’s happened between Many & Melbourne countless times, while who could forget when Cronulla had to do it against the Storm to write their own piece of history. Johnathan Thurston had his own heroics forever remembered when he and his side did it against their main rivals in the Broncos. And while a loss against another big club might not officially end your season per se, it doesn’t exactly paint it in the most positive light either. In round 12 away from home, St George lost 28-2 to the 3rd placed Panthers. Their only points came via a penalty goal. In this match, they missed 28 tackles as well as having had to make 45 more than their opponents. They also had seven incomplete sets and gave away more penalties than the Panthers. While another defeat earlier in the season saw them go down 24-10 to South Sydney. And if it weren’t for Tyson Frizell’s double, they might not have put up any points on the board at all. Both of these sides will be in the finals and having such poor losses to them isn’t what they need in what has been an otherwise pretty perfect season so far for them.
For the Rabbitohs, just like their fire-breathing rivals, they too have had a slip-up or two this season. They conceded 32 in their opening match of the campaign to the Warriors while ending up with a completion rate of just 66%. That was good for 12 incomplete sets. While they also missed a massive 33 tackles as well as conceding 14 errors. They also lost the game despite the opposition being down to 12 men for 10 minutes of the game as well. While another loss was away from home when they went down 16-12 to St George and scored only two tries in the process. While they were down 14-2 before they scored their first try of the game with only eight minutes left. If this scenario plays out in the finals then they too can wave bye-bye to any potential Premiership ambitions they may have harbored.
The rest of the competition
The men from the foot of the mountains currently sit in 3rd position and will be looking to go a few better this season after being knocked out in the Semis last campaign. While they’re being led by young sensation Nathan Cleary in the halves. A player who’s attacking/kicking game is amongst the most lethal in the game. While the Warriors have won 10 of their opening 14 games in their pursuit of a maiden Premiership. Melbourne are lurking in 5th position and are the current GF winners and have a strong history of doing damage in the finals under head-coach Craig Bellamy. While Billy Slater & Cameron Smith being there doesn’t exactly work to the benefit of any team playing them either. The Roosters are slowly starting to fire with Cooper Cronk & Co as they have a healthy points difference of +96. While the lethal backline combination of Blake Ferguson and Latrell Mitchell already have 16 combined four-pointers this season. While Cronulla won a Premiership not all that long ago and Brisbane are always close under the guidance of super-coach Wayne Bennett and his star-studded representative team. And with Darius Boyd no longer repping the famous maroon QLD jersey, he could take his game and his sides to a completely new level. Any one of these teams, or maybe all of them on their day could beat both St George and South Sydney.
So there you have it, the reasons why both the Dragons or the Rabbitohs won’t be winning the GF this year. As good as both are, their past history, some of their lowlights from the current season and the rest of the pack might prove to be just a tad too much for either one of them to handle. But there’s always next year for both sides, however, in the upcoming finals campaign, it’ll be the Dragons breathing bubbles and the Rabbitohs playing dead.
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