Shannon Meyer previews Friday night’s big local rivalry between the Roosters and the Rabbitohs. The game is being played at Bankwest Stadium, even further away from their respective heartlands.
The Roosters’ 2020 record is currently 0-2, and unsurprisingly they were one of the teams to call for the first two rounds to be wiped. They were upset 20-14 by the Panthers in round one, and were beaten by a 75th minute field goal from Daly Cherry-Evans in the 9-8 round two loss to Manly.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney scraped past the Sharks in round one: getting a result without impressing too much. They were competitive against Friday night specialists the Brisbane Broncos in round two but lost. Interestingly, both of the Rabbitohs’ games this season have ended up 22-18. You could argue neither team really impressed in the first two rounds.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Isaac Liu 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Victor Radley 14. Sam Verrills 15. Sitili Tupouniua 16. Nat Butcher 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Siosiua Taukeiaho 19. Ryan Hall 20. Lachlan Lam 21. Poasa Faamausili.
Josh Morris plays his first game for the Roosters after playing for the Sharks before the NRL’s suspension; his brother makes way for him and moves to the wing, with round two winger Matt Ikuvalu out of the team. Isaac Liu replaces Siosiua Taukeiaho in the starting side; Taukeiaho is 18th man behind new addition Sitili Tupouniua.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Dane Gagai 3. Campbell Graham 4. Braidon Burns 5. Alex Johnston 6. Troy Dargan 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Cameron Murray 13. Liam Knight 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Ethan Lowe 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Patrick Mago 18. Bryson Goodwin 19. Tom Amone 20. James Roberts 21. Keaon Koloamatangi.
Latrell Mitchell remains at fullback for now, as Wayne Bennett gives the star recruit more time to shine. The underrated Troy Dargan replaces the suspended amateur kickboxer Cody Walker at five-eighth. James Roberts – back from rehab – has not made the starting side; Campbell Graham has been promoted to the centres and Alex Johnston is promoted from the bench to the wing, which means he won’t have to move far to replace Latrell Mitchell if needed this match.
The starting forwards are the same as round two; Bayley Sironen and Patrick Mago are the new faces on the bench.
The Roosters have won five of the past seven clashes between these sides at all grounds, and hold a 12-9 head-to-head record from the past 10 seasons.
Going back to 1998, the Roosters hold the advantage over the Rabbitohs in Friday games (10-2), night games (18-10), games kicking off between 7pm and 8pm (15-7), and Channel Nine games (14-8).
South Sydney lost both of their games at Bankwest Stadium last season, while the Roosters won their only fixture. Going back to 1998, Souths’ record at Parramatta is really poor, just two wins in 12 matches.
The Roosters have lost just two matches in the last 21 against Sydney opposition – home or away.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Will the off-field distractions that have popped up between round two and round three affect the Rabbitohs? They have lost two of their strike weapons in the backline, where the Roosters have strengthened with the arrival of Josh Morris.
Another key point of interest for the match will no doubt be Latrell Mitchell’s performance in the first game against the club where he made his name. His performances at fullback for South Sydney have been underwhelming at best in the first two rounds, but you can bet with the focus on him he will be up for a big game to show the Roosters what they are missing.
A forward option for some interest could be a brutal battle up the middle between Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Thomas Burgess. Or Angus Crichton up against the player who made his name for the Rabbitohs (thanks to Crichton leaving for their rivals), Cameron Murray: although Murray’s shift to the second row has blunted his impact slightly in the first two rounds.
This local rivalry will be as hard fought as ever, but one wonders whether the off-field distractions will catch up with South Sydney. The Roosters will also be wary with the reduced number of rounds and some tough games coming up (away to the Broncos in round four; at “home” to Parramatta in round six) that their 0-2 start to the season could look really ugly if they lose here.
Prediction: Roosters by 10.
Date: Friday 29th May
Venue: Bankwest Stadium