Record: 9 wins, 15 losses
Ladder Position: 12th
Another year of non achievement for the Rabbitohs where they matched last season’s 12th placed finish, and the brief return to form once they were mathematically unable to make the top 8.
The lack of progress ultimately cost Michael Maguire his coach as head coach, and has been swiftly replaced for 2018 by his assistant Anthony Seibold.
All the fault shouldn’t lie at the feet of Maguire, as South Sydney were simply poor in too many games in 2017, and Sam Burgess aside, there just seemed a lack of quality until that great late season run.
Fans of South Sydney will hope that it will turn around for 2018, as they will need to find something else to blame if the mediocrity continues.
DID MICHAEL MAGUIRE DESERVE TO GO?
Given Souths’ decline since winning the 2014 title something had to change for 2018.
The cheapest, easiest option is always to remove the coach, and that is exactly what the Rabbitohs did in the week after the end of the season, in a move that shocked some but most could see coming.
Souths were not only not winning in 2017, but were playing a dull, predictable style of rugby league that rarely troubled other NRL sides throughout the season. Despite consistent errors not helping the cause, it always seemed likely that Maguire would be the one to make way, and perhaps his departure might see a freshen up in style.
He should always be seen favourably by Souths fans for bringing the much awaited premiership in 2014, but rugby league has moved on and Souths haven’t and something had to change.
If it is repeated or decline in 2018, then some players like the Burgess twins should be very worried.
MEMO TO INCOMING COACHING STAFF – CODY WALKER IS A FIVE EIGHTH
Cody Walker has been a revelation since breaking into the Rabbitohs squad in 2016, and the player who spent almost a decade in second tier rugby league competitions has been one of Souths best in the last two seasons.
He is quick, skilful and versatile. That last quality has also been one of the downfalls of Souths in 2017.
Whilst Walker is a tremendous talent, and can play at fullback or in the centres, he is much more useful to South Sydney’s cause by playing at five eighth. There were games like the 38-18 win against Manly in Round 2 where he was simply sensational, and a handful with just about every touch.
It shouldn’t be lost in the wash up of the 2017 that once Souths were officially unable to make the finals, the change was made to send Cody Walker back to the halves and that coincided with Souths’ best run of the season.
Hopefully he wears the number 6 all season in 2018, even when Greg Inglis returns to the side.
2017 PLAYER LOSSES ALL EXCELLED ELSEWHERE
One statistic that is interesting in when it comes to player recruitment in sport is how the players you’ve just let go fare at their new clubs. Sometimes it is not about who you bring in, but who you’ve let go. You could argue about the use of Robbie Farah’s arrival at Souths for 2017, but for me it is three players they let go that sums up where Souths is at.
The three Souths evictees in question are Nathan Brown, Cameron McInnes, and Luke Keary who left for Parramatta, St George-Illawarra and Roosters respectively.
Nathan Brown was a handful at Souths at times, described at one of the dirtiest players in the NRL in 2016 after some unsavoury incidents, but he turned all that around in 2017 with an outstanding season for the Eels. He was named their best player for the season, and in a side that was very good this season, it was a fair achievement.
Cameron McInnes was also great for the Dragons in 2017, another players doing bigger and better things after he had left Souths. Was squeezed out to make room for Robbie Farah, and the question of value for money of Mcinnes v Farah doesn’t need an answer.
Luke Keary was the most high profile departure, and his move to the Roosters has been regarded by many as one of the best pieces of transfer business for 2017. Hard to argue as he combined brilliantly alongside Mitchell Pearce for the Roosters, a team that has made the last 4 on the 2017 season.
Whilst you can’t keep everyone in the era of a properly enforced salary cap, these three examples show how much it can hurt a side if you get them wrong.
ANGUS CRICHTON A BRIGHT STAR FOR THE FUTURE
It was not always doom and gloom for the Rabbitohs in 2017, Angus Crichton broke through to be a first grade regular, and was one of Souths best, if not the very best all season.
Having been pinched from Rugby Union, the 21 year old from Temora has cemented himself in the back row and scored 7 tries in all in 2017. He brought a refreshing sense of excitement is the feel good story for the Rabbitohs from 2017.
His outstanding night was against the Titans were he scored a hat trick on one of Souths’ good night, but he always looked up for the fight all year, and with plenty of time on his side, will hopefully be the dependable back rower and clubman that John Sutton has been for the Rabbitohs.
THREE QUICK QUESTIONS FOR 2018
Will the return of Greg Inglis make any difference to the side considering he missed most of 2017? Thinking back on the majority of his 2016 form that is.
When he does, how does the exciting arrival of Dane Gagai fit?
How long does Souths persist with the Burgess twins?
Of all those questions, number two is the most exciting heading into the new season. A fully fit and firing Greg Inglis, with Origin Series player of the year Dane Gagai, try scoring machine Alex Johnston and Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds sounds a very useful backline. If they are selected in the right positions.
Given the above thoughts on Cody Walker staying at five eighth, and Alex Johnston’s terrific form at the back, the Rabbitohs could do worse than have Gagai and Inglis on opposite sides of the field in the centre position for 2018.
2018 LOSSES AND GAINS
2018 Gains: Jesse Arthars (Melbourne Storm, 2019), Dean Britt (Melbourne Storm, 2019), Dane Gagai (Newcastle Knights, 2021)
2018 Losses: Anthony Cherrington (released), Bryson Goodwin (Leigh Centurions), Aaron Gray (Cronulla Sharks), Brett Greinke (released), Luke Kelly (released), Dane Nielsen (released), Robbie Rochow (Wests Tigers), Toby Rudolf (released), David Tyrrell (released)
Re-Signed: Campbell Graham (2019), Mawene Hiroti (2019), Alex Johnston (2020), Siosifa Talakai (2019), Kyle Turner (2019), John Sutton (2018)
Off Contract 2017: Jack Gosiewski