Another preliminary final finish for the Rabbitohs as they wonder what might have been.
2019 Club Record
Competition Points: 34
2019 Player Achievements
George Piggins Medal Player of the Year: Damien Cook
Most Tries: Cody Walker (16)
Most Points: Adam Reynolds (207)
With many media pundits predicting a top four finish for the Rabbitohs before the season started, they knew nothing less than a premiership would be a failure. Expectations were high, and with new coach Wayne Bennett arriving at Redfern, Souths fans knew their team would be in with a real shot in 2019.
They started strongly, winning the first three matches against the Roosters, Dragons and Titans before a deflating Golden Point loss to the Sea Eagles in round four at Lottoland. Not to be deterred, the red and green went on an impressive seven-match winning streak to sit firmly in the top four: including an incredible comeback victory against the Warriors on the Sunshine Coast (with Cody Walker scoring four tries), a big win against the Broncos filled with Goanna celebrations, and a close shave on a frozen Canberra night.
The Rabbitohs’ halves Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker were arguably the in-form pairing for the first half of the season, and were instrumental in their great start. After the Origin period the Bunnies struggled to score points in some games and relied too much on the individual brilliance of the likes of Cook and Murray to create opportunities. The mid-season pick up of James Roberts was questioned by some, though in hindsight it was a great move. It pushed Dane Gagai onto the wing, which the media believed caused a rift between the club and Gagai, but it was shut down emphatically by both parties.
Injuries, suspensions (most notably George Burgess’ nine-game suspension) and resting Origin representatives saw the Bunnies lose four on the trot from rounds twelve to fifteen to drop out of the top four. Once the Origin period ended they went on a three-game winning streak to regain confidence. This was followed by a three-game losing streak as they struggled for points. With their enforcer Sam Burgess being out suspended or injured, they were in a hole. Recently there has been talk that Burgess might not play again, as his shoulder is shot to bits, and he has severe arthritis. This is a must-watch space in the off-season.
Bennett’s men finished the regular season in third place on 34 points, only behind the Roosters and Storm. They were completely outclassed by the Roosters 30-6 in the second qualifying final at the SCG. The difference between the two teams in the regular season was just two competition points, though it was clear the Roosters were a much more dangerous football side, with attacking weapons all across the park. Souths played a remarkable game against the Sea Eagles in the second week of the finals, winning 34-26 to set up a mouth-watering preliminary final against the Raiders. Unfortunately for Souths, they lost to the Raiders 16-10 to be knocked out a game before the grand final for the second year in a row.
Asked if it was still a successful season, Bennett said: “Not really. They were here this time last year and they failed.” The painful preliminary final exit marks the end of John Sutton’s career and George Burgess’ time in red and green, with the latter a surprise axing before kick-off for Bulldogs-bound prop Dean Britt. Souths fans would be ecstatic with the emergence of young gun Cameron Murray, and the game time Corey Allan and Campbell Graham received, as they are the future of this football club.
The Rabbitohs will be around when the whips are cracking next year, though it’s another question whether they can reach their first grand final since 2014.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
The Dally M Lock of the Year had a stellar season as he led the Rabbitohs’ pack at the ripe old age of 21. He played 26 games, scoring 12 tries, unusual for forwards in today’s game. Murray is certainly not the same size as the Burgess boys, but packs the same amount of punch in attack and defence. Standing at 184 cm and weighing 90 kg, Murray would be one of the smallest players on the field at any given time, though it doesn’t seem to deter him. Some of his stats from the year are outstanding: 33 offloads, averaging 35.6 tackles (92.3% efficiency) and running for 113 metres a game.
Murray earned a New South Wales Origin debut, playing all three games in the Blues’ series victory. He was great off the bench in game three, with two linebreaks and a smart one-on-one strip to put the Blues in great field position. Australian coach Mal Meninga named Murray in his Kangaroos squad for the end-of-year Tests, which is the biggest honour of his short career. South Sydney fans should be very excited about Murray; he’s a star and should be earmarked as the next captain in a few years.
2020 GAINS AND LOSSES
Troy Dargan (Brisbane Broncos, 2021), Edene Gebbie (2021), Bryson Goodwin (Warrington Wolves, 2020), Jack Johns (2020), Steven Marsters (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2020), Jaxson Paulo (Gold Coast Titans, 2020), James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos, 2021), Jaydn Su’a (Brisbane Broncos, 2021).
Dean Britt (Bulldogs), Billy Brittain (released), George Burgess (Wigan Warriors), Jacob Gagan (released), Mawene Hiroti (released), Greg Inglis (retired), Rhys Kennedy (Brisbane Broncos), John Sutton (retired), Connor Tracey (Cronulla Sharks), Kyle Turner (released).