Round 19: Rabbitohs v Dragons preview
Dragons looking to upset high flying Bunnies to keep their season alive.
Sitting four points outside the eight following three straight losses, the Red V's season is on life support and they now face the monumental task of downing the second-placed Rabbitohs to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
Under immense scrutiny for electing to rest Ben Hunt in last week's big loss to the Panthers, Coach Paul McGregor will be desperately sweating on his million dollar halfback playing a starring role upon his return to action on Friday night.
Alongside Hunt in the halves for the first time all year will be Gareth Widdop who returns from an early season shoulder injury whilst wearing the number one jersey. This time round, Corey Norman will shift to the back with Matt Dufty relegated to the bench.
The Dragons will also field a new look wing pairing with Zac Lomax returning from a broken thumb and teenage sensation Jason Saab earning an NRL debut.
Meanwhile, Souths' Coach Wayne Bennett has named the same seventeen men that notched a second straight win over the Cowboys in Townsville last Saturday night.
That win signalled Bennett's men were well and truly back on track after suffering four straight losses during a gruelling Origin period.
Burgess Brothers, Sam and Tom have been listed in the reserves as they edge closer to injury returns. Sam is still likely a week or two away, but look for Tom to be a late IN when teams are finalized an hour before kick-off.
Who to watch: After admittedly struggling to cope with the rigors of his first Origin campaign, Cameron Murray rebounded from a flat spot in club land with a return to his very best at the expense of the Cowboys last weekend. Along with a mammoth workload racking up 51 tackles, the Origin winning forward set up a try before scoring the match sealer himself late in the contest. Look for his footwork, strength and offloads to again wreak havoc in this one, particularly late in the contest when the Dragons middles begin to tire.
Whilst plenty of eyes will be on the return of Hunt in this one, the key to the Dragons chances on Friday night and inevitable their season, rest on Gareth Widdop. The returning Englishman will be looking to make up for lost time and the very little time he has left in the NRL before he moves back to England next season. Look for him to bring a level of control to the Dragons attack which should free up Hunt and Norman to play more of their natural games.
My tip: With their season on the line and the return of Widdop, the Dragons should come out breathing fire making this an intriguing contest. The Rabbitohs themselves have plenty to play for as they look to hold a firm grip on second spot. Look for the kicking game of Reynolds to strangle the Dragons chances before Murray and Cook turn it on around the ruck. Souths by 10.