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2011 in review - South Sydney Rabbitohs
2011 was an all too familiar sight for South Sydney. After a wave of pre-season anticipation the Rabbitohs began slowly and just as soon as they had rallied to keep their season alive they stumbled on the final hurdle. This constant stream of disappointment has seemingly become a part of Souths DNA and with problems occurring on and off the field it's difficult to envision a simple solution in the years ahead.
Bolstered by the prize signing of Greg Inglis, 2011 should have been Souths most successful seasons since their return to the competition but before fans could get excited their hopes had dimmed dramatically. It only took 26 minutes before disappointment could sink in at Redfern as star forward Sam Burgess limped off with an ankle injury that would restrict him to just four appearances all season. This was just the beginning of Souths woes as they lost five of their opening seven games and would lose Asotasi, Stuart, Lowe and Geddes for extensive periods during that time.
But to focus on these injuries would be ignoring Souths key issue - defence. The Rabbitohs had no problem piling on the points but when it came to relying on their defensive line they were hopeless conceding more points than all but two sides in the competition. This inability to rely on defence was evident in their losses against the Roosters and Bulldogs when Souths fought back from deficits only to lose both games in dramatic fashion.
At the half-way point of the competition Souths were starring at the bottom of the ladder with a four from twelve record that had all but sealed their fate. It was during this point Souths rallied and put themselves back into contention with seven wins from ten games. Amongst those victories included two golden point thrillers against the Roosters and Cowboys but the coup de grace was a come from behind victory against the Dragons in Round 21. The Dragons raced out of the blocks to be leading by 20 in less than 20 minutes before Souths rallied in the forwards and gave enigmatic halfback Chris Sandow all the room he needed to work his wizardry to come away with a memorable 34-24 victory in front of a stunned WIN Stadium.
That victory gave Souths a new lease on life and triggered a four game winning streak. Nathan Merritt particularly starred in this period scoring 8 tries from two games and finished the season with 23 tries, the most for Souths since Ian Moir in 1953.
But just as Souths had worked their way back into contention they stumbled against Broncos and Newcastle to finish just outside of the Top 8 once more. It was a disappointing end to a season that promised so much yet managed to break supporters hearts not once but twice.
The future doesn't look much brighter for Souths. Although they did manage to land the signing of successful Wigan coach Michael Maguire, they failed to retain star halfback Chris Sandow who is headed to Parramatta. This loss leaves them rudderless in 2012 as their hopes fall on inexperienced halfback Adam Reynolds. A member of their 2010 Toyota Cup Grand Final side, Reynolds missed all of last season after undergoing a successful knee reconstruction. Alternative options for Souths include Ryan Carr or Justin Hunt both of whom join Souths from Redcliffe.
However, in a piece of good news Souths did manage to secure the signing of former Kangaroo Matt King who makes his return from the ESL. The curly haired outside back improves Souths backline and his inclusion may just make their backline one of the best in the entire league.
With players returning from injury and others gaining invaluable experience from this season, Maguire will be looking to restore South Sydney to the powerhouse they once were and bring them the glory they have craved for decades.
Best Match - Round 21 vs. St. George Illawarra Dragons
As previously mentioned Souths fought back bravely to record a famous 34-24 victory. Chris Sandow was the star playing a hands on role setting up tries and booting Souths into valuable field territory. Rookie Dylan Farrell also had an afternoon to remember scoring three tries including the match winner in a stand out performance.
Worst Match - Round 26 vs. Newcastle Knights
Souths had lost by bigger deficits but none of those losses stung as much as their sudden death clash against Newcastle. Souths were never really in it as they conceded 30 points in the first half alone. As they had done all season, they fought back but it was all in vain as Newcastle raced away with a 40-24 victory.
Best Player - Chris Sandow
On his day, Chris Sandow was a game breaker with an incredible ability to break a game wide open. Chris has all the talent to make it as an NRL star but needs to work on his defensive game and playmaking options before he can be considered in the upper echelon. Unfortunately for Souths, if Sandow does realise his potential it won't be at their club as he is off to Parramatta.
Rookies - Nathan Peats
Peats proved handy off the bench covering the backrow position in the absence of star forwards. Livewire fullback James Roberts also looks to have a big future in front of him and was announced as the NYC winger of the Year.
Coming: Matt King (Warrington),Justin Hunt (Redcliffe), Ryan Carr (Redcliffe), Andrew Everingham (Western Suburbs), Josh Starling (Tweed Heads)
Going: Chris Sandow (Parramatta), Ben Ross (Cronulla), Shannan McPherson (Salford), Beau Falloon (Gold Coast), Luke Stuart, Rhys Wesser (Retirement)
1. James Roberts 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Dylan Farrell 4. Greg Inglis 5. Matt King 6. John Sutton 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Scott Geddes 9. Issac Luke 10. Roy Asotasi (c) 11. Sam Burgess 12. Dave Taylor 13. Michael Crocker
Interchange: 14. Luke Burgess 15. Eddy Pettybourne 16. Ben Lowe 17. Nathan Peats