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2014 NRL Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs

South Sydney Rabbitohs Stats

2013 Record: 18 wins from 24 premiership games (2nd placed, Finalists)
5-year record: 68 wins from 120 premiership games (57% win record)

Player Movements

Gains: Joel Reddy, Chris Grevsmuhl, Lote Tuqiri

Losses: Nathan Peats, Roy Asotasi, Matt King, Michael Crocker, Andrew Everingham, Justin Hunt, Dylan Farrell, Josh Starling, Christian Hazard, Jeff Lima,  Fetuli Talanoa

Coach: Michael Maguire

Fixtures to start and end 2014

First five fixtures: Roosters (H), Eagles (A), Tigers (A), Raiders (H), Dragons (A)
Final five fixtures: Eagles (H), Broncos (H), Cowboys (H), Bulldogs (A), Roosters (A)

The South Sydney Rabbitohs enter the new season minus one of the game’s brightest prospects after Luke Keary succumbed to a pectoral injury at the Auckland Nines and will be missing for four months.

Sam Burgess’ impending move to rugby makes 2014 a very interesting one for the foundation club as they seek to end a premiership drought stretching back to 1971.

The last two seasons have been rare ones for South Sydney fans; their team has been in the finals. If not for Adam Reynolds’ hamstring injury in the 2012 preliminary final and a lacklustre performance in the 2013 preliminary final against Manly, the Rabbitohs would have been in their first Grand Final since 1971.

Coach Michael Maguire has done an excellent job in turning the club around, but now needs to find something extra to get them to the next level, and I don’t think 34-year-old winger Lote Tuqiri is the answer. They have one of the greatest players in the modern era in Greg Inglis leading their attack, and such is his talent, you could play him anywhere in the back line and even at lock or second row and he would dominate the competition. John Sutton is only now realising how good he can be after making his debut way back in 2004, and alongside Reynolds, who should have been Origin half back last year, they have one of the most dangerous halves combinations in the NRL. Add Isaac Luke at hooker and the Rabbitohs have the best spine going around but as we have seen in the last two seasons this isn’t enough to win you a premiership.

Sam Burgess receives a lot of praise but I’m not sure he is as good as people say. He has been in the NRL for four seasons now and he is prone to injuries and suspension, playing 70 games in the time, or a little over 17 games a season. His twin brothers George and Thomas will probably become better players in the next few years.

They have a great young player coming through in Dylan Walker who has speed to burn. Nathan Merritt will continue to score plenty of tries but someone needs to remind him there are two sides to rugby league; attack and defence. His shoddy defence was exposed in a forgettable Origin debut last year and it’s fair to say he won’t be earning a second sky blues jersey.

Ben Teo has been a little disappointing since coming to the Rabbitohs and he is not making much of an impact on games in the way he did at the Broncos. He is a very damaging player but I have not seen much of it in his time at the club, it’s time for him to make his mark. Depth remains an issue with the Rabbitohs.

They have spent big money on recruiting great players in recent seasons but if they go down injured, or get suspended, there is generally not much else. If Inglis does his knee in round one, Merritt will assume the fullback role but he is no Inglis, and he is not very good in the air.

If Burgess gets injured their forward pack doesn’t look anywhere near as potent, as no other player really stands up in his absence. The Rabbitohs have some great players but dig a little deeper and there is not much there. If injuries strike, they may struggle to match it with the best teams. They have over 25,000 members hoping the team stays healthy for the duration of 2014 because the once mighty club is long overdue for a premiership.

University of Wollongong alumni and aspiring journalist.

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