The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Every season we preview the South Sydney Rabbitohs, we always expect improvement. We know how capable they are. It's only a matter of time before they return to becoming the "Pride Of The League". I guess right now it's truly a matter of when. With a bad decade behind them, the side looks like it will be starting on a fresh note. With some decent player movements behind them the Rabbitohs suddenly have expectation to deal with. There are calls that they will be a Top 4 side. Can they deal with this new weight of expectation? That is the main question.
The first major movement was the coach. Out went Jason Taylor following his scuffle with former forward David Fa'alogo, and in comes premiership winning coach, John Lang. Out with the old, and in with the older. There is promise for Lang, despite having an extended period out of the game, since being replaced as Penrith Panthers coach by Matthew Elliott. The next movement is that of highly fancied Englishman, Sam Burgess. Since Burgess was first noticed by Austrailan clubs, we've all had a glance to see what he's like. Rabbitohs fans were extremely impressed, awaiting the moment when he would set foot to his new club. The most expectation, possibly out of every person involved in the league this year, is on the shoulders of young Burgess. At 21, it will be interesting to see whether he handles the pressure well. If he does, the Rabbitohs have a great signing here. He could very well rival the impact made by the last well-known Englishmen to play in the league (current Tiger Gareth Ellis and former Rooster Adrian Morley).
The last movement I will be mentioning is former Bronco David Taylor. Big, strong, athletic, he will be a handful. After finishing last season with some great form, South Sydney fans will be hoping he can not only match this form, but improve on it. He has been widely tipped as the State Of Origin bolter for Queensland, let's hope he bolts for South Sydney as well.
Ok, so I've gone on about the new players, what about the old ones? The backline is still going strong for the club. Beau Champion, Nathan Merritt, Fetuli Talanoa and Jamie Simpson all displayed great performances from time to time last season, whilst one of Lang's old guns Rhys Wesser seems to be breathing a new breath of fresh air. This could be a dangerous backline if the pre-mentioned players stay consistent throughout the season.
What about the halves? John Sutton proved his value with some consistently top-of-the-line performances throughout last season. He was close to gaining an Origin berth, and will do so again this season. Young halfback Chris Sandow showed his attacking brilliance from time to time, but it didn't remain consistent. He also had the mantle statistically for a stunning number of missed tackles. There is promise in young Sandow however, recently former Bronco legend Allan Langer lead the praises for Sandow. There will be expectation on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see how he can handle it.
Now Souths fans, time to talk about the part of your line-up that must be the most exciting. Yep, it's the forward pack. It's glittered with names this year too. Alongside new signings David Taylor and Sam Burgess, there remains club and national captain Roy Asotasi, the powerful young bolter Eddy Pettybourne, the always consistent Michael Crocker, the ever improving Luke Stuart and the quick and speedy Isaac Luke. Adding to this is another new signing in Ben Ross, who is hoping to recover from a period that was wrecked by injury. Another of Lang's old warhorses.
So, where will South Sydney finish in 2010? The real answer, well, to be honest, there are sixteen possibilities. Souths could go into this season as the most unpredictable side. However, fans of the side will go into the season, more hopeful, more certain and more excited then they have been in the last twenty or so seasons.
Pride of the League? Only one way to find out.
Signings Gains: Dave Taylor (Broncos), Ben Ross (Sharks), Sam Burgess (Bradford, ESL) Losses: David Kidwell (retired), Jaiman Lowe (Northern Pride, QRL), David Fa'alogo (Huddersfield, ESL), Michael Greenfield (Dragons), Craig Wing (Union)
Predicted Round 1 lineup 1. Rhys Wesser 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Colin Best 4. Beau Champion 5. Fetuli Talanoa 6. John Sutton 7. Chris Sandow 8. Luke Stuart 9. Isaac Luke 10. Roy Asotasi (c) 11. Eddy Pettybourne 12. Dave Taylor 13. Sam Burgess Interchange: 14. Scott Geddes 15. Ben Ross 16. Jason Clark 17. Shannon McPherson
Player To Watch: Rhys Wesser One of the veterans from the 2003 Penrith Panthers campaign, Wesser looks to be prepared for a new beginning of his own, under the coach that brought him his best years. It could be make or break, but South Sydney fans are certain that he is back, and ready to strike.
Rookie To Watch: Jason Clark After a few seasons of captaining a successful Toyota Cup side, Clark made his top grade debut in a match late last year against St George Illawarra (I'm personally sure South Sydney fans will remember this particular match). With a full season ahead of him, it will be interesting to witness how he will go.
Current Injuries Michael Crocker is expected back around the second or third round.
2010 Season Schedule R1 v Roosters (H) R2 v Titans (H) R3 v Sharks (A) R4 v Bulldogs (H) R5 v Knights (H, Gosford) R6 v Eels (A, ANZ) R7 v Raiders (A) R8 v Sea Eagles (H) R9 Bye R10 v Tigers (A, SCG, Heritage Round) R11 v Warriors (A) R12 v Panthers (H) R13 v Cowboys (H) R14 v Broncos (A) R15 v Sea Eagles (A) R16 v Storm (H, Perth) R17 Bye R18 v Roosters (A) R19 v Dragons (H) R20 v Warriors (H) R21 v Bulldogs (A, ANZ) R22 v Tigers (H) R23 v Storm (A) R24 v Panthers (A) R25 v Eels (H) R26 v Dragons (A)