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Resurgent Rabbitohs target woeful Warriors
Overcoming a disappointing Bulldogs side last Thursday, the Rabbitohs will be hoping to continue their impressive finish to the season with a strong display over the leagues long-standing failures. Scheduled in for the much-maligned Friday twilight slot, the Rabbitohs will be looking to generate plenty of enthusiasm in their play to compensate for the invariably absent atmosphere to be generated by 70,000 vacant seats. Holding an imposing record over the New Zealand club in recent history with five consecutive wins, coach Michael Maguire will be stressing the importance of patience to his side, after overseeing a remarkable escape against St. George Illawarra and a grinding display over Canterbury. Retaining the same squad that has performed so strongly in the final stages of 2017, captain Sam Burgess has been named to start in the front row, allowing Cameron Murray to start at lock for the first time in his career.
In a moment that encapsulates the continual descent of the Warriors, the sides two most experienced forwards were left to look like amateurs by 18-year-old Nick Cotric last Sunday. With the Raiders passing one off a scrum, the combined experience of almost 700 first grade and representative appearances produced a tackle befitting the clubs Under 20s outfit. Throughout the season critiques of the New Zealanders have been aimed largely at the inconsistency of the side, but with the Warriors lacking the fortitude to combat adversity, there is little hope that Stephen Kearney's side will win again this season. Appearing at ANZ Stadium for only the third time since the 2011 Grand Final, the Warriors will be out to improve upon their dismal showings which have generated six consecutive losses dating back to the beginning of July, but with coach Kearney retaining largely the same squad with the exception of the suspended Ben Matulino and return of Kieran Foran, it appears the only way the side will finish on the right side of the leger is by defying accepted notions of insanity.
Who to watch: After emerging as one of the finest talents to come out of South Sydney since their readmission, Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds has been bellow his best in the years following the clubs drought-breaking premiership. While making his representative debut for New South Wales last season, the 27-year-old will be hoping to finish the year positively after failing to build upon the brief periods of momentum established at several key stages over the course of 2017. On-contract until the end of 2021, Reynolds is set to enter the prime of his career and with a side full of young talent eager to replicate the glory the Rabbitohs playmaker enjoyed during the infancy of his first grade career, the proud Souths junior has the opportunity to forge a legacy as a club great.
Having gone from being touted as potentially the greatest ever New Zealand born player in rugby league history to captaining a perpetually embarrassing impersonation of a football team, Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck must contemplate his decision to leave the Roosters in order to return to his native home on a regular basis. As one of the few players to perform amongst a host of weak-willed teammates, the 24-year-old will be out to finish the season positively having been handed the reins of captaincy in the wake of a serious knee injury last year. Second only to Paul Gallen for runs this season, Tuivasa-Sheck produced a season high 260 metres against the Raiders, in a sign that while he may not boast the support needed to turn his ability into premiership success, his efforts won't stop even when those around him have.
My tip: With the benefit of hindsight the Rabbitohs will be able to reflect upon 2017 as a season of regeneration. Having come to terms with the absence of Greg Inglis and the emergence of several young talents, the Red and Green will be out to finish the year on a positive as they work their way towards another period of success. Rabbitohs by 16.
1. Alex Johnston 2. Bryson Goodwin 3. Aaron Gray 4. Tyrell Fuimaono 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 17. Zane Musgrove 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Cameron Murray 14. Robbie Farah 15. George Burgess 16. Kyle Turner 18. Jack Gosiewski
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Mafoa'aeata Hingano 8. Jacob Lillyman 14. Issac Luke 10. Sam Lisone 11. Bunty Afoa 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering 15. Chris Satae 17. Charlie Gubb 18. Mason Lino 23. Jazz Tevaga