2018 PREVIEW 🔍 Perennial underachievers? Our fifteenth preview is here. Andrew Ferguson assesses whe...
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If you're not moving forward, you begin to move backwards.
The Rabbitohs in 2017 were stagnant. They finished the year with the same competition points as in 2016, their points differential was slightly worse and their position on the ladder was unchanged as they finished an unthreatening twelfth place.
They sported an impressive forward pack, one of the best kickers in the game today in Adam Reynolds and two talented ball playing hookers in Damian Cook and Robbie Farah, coupling with the ever brilliant Greg Inglis. Inglis though suffered a season ending injury in Round 1 while coach Maguire appeared to have no idea how to best utilise Cook and Farah which resulted in a trivial game plan that suited no one other than Souths opponents.
Round 1 v Wests Tigers: When Inglis was ruled out for the year after the opening clash of the season, it shouldn't have been the end of the Bunnies season, but it turns out it was. Despite winning the next two games, they won just 7 of the remaining 21 games.
Test back Alex Johnston bagged 22 tries in as many appearances in 2017. His ability to finish plays coupled with his broken play running is a phenomenal asset to himself and the club which was surprisingly under-utilised many times throughout the year.
Souths were blessed with two good creative hookers in 2017 in Cook and Farah, but Maguire constantly tried to give both equal time on the field in all bar one game. The end result was as expected, game plans changing as the rake was changed, which just confused their attack and made both men look far worse than they really are.
Sam Burgess might have won the club's best and fairest in October, but Angus Crichton - gee this kid came on in leaps and bounds in 2017, becoming one of the best ball runners in the game. His ability to run the right line so frequently, couple with his good step and ball skills, made him a genuine handful for every defensive unit. Alex Johnston was consistent and reliable as ever be it on the wing or covering at fullback.
Souths' Intrust Super Premiership feeder side, the North Sydney Bears, finished the regular season in 6th place, which saw them qualify for the finals.
Unfortunately, they bowed out early after a week 1 loss to the Knights eliminated them from the premiership race.
The Rabbitohs' NYC Under 20's side ever so narrowly missed out on a place in the finals. They finished equal on points with 8th placed Manly, however Souths points differential was just seven worse than their Northern beaches counterparts. Manly went on to claim the final ever Holden Cup premiership with a stunning run from eight spot, capped with a last-minute win over Parramatta in the decider.
Souths have sacked 2014 premiership coach Michael Maguire and have managed to lure Knights star back Dane Gagai to the fold. However, that is their only major signing. In turn they have lost Bryson Goodwin, Aaron Gray, Dave Tyrrell, Anthony Cherrington, Luke Kelly and Dane Nielsen. Their depth, especially in the backs, will be tested immensely next year while up front, they really need to settle on a full time hooker while demanding more from George and Tom Burgess up front. Hard to see them improving much, if at all, in 2018.