Round 19: Rabbitohs v Bulldogs preview
South Sydney and Canterbury-Bankstown meet on Thursday Night in front of what will be a handful of people at ANZ Stadium, relative to the crowds this fixture would usually attract. That's 2020 for you.
The Rabbitohs head into this match having won 6 out of their last 7 games, with a gallant loss to the Melbourne Storm the only hiccup. Their latest victory had them cruise to an early 20-0 lead against Wests Tigers, before a spirited comeback attempt from the desperate Tigers fell just short.
The Bulldogs last won a game on the 26th of July, and will be looking to celebrate captain Josh Jackson's 200th game with their 3rd win of the season, in what will potentially be another opportunity for them to climb off the bottom of the NRL ladder.
They will be missing Matt Doorey and Ofahiki Ogden who have both been ruled out for the season, joining Kieran Foran on the sidelines. Tim Lafai comes back into the side, at the expense of one of the team's best performers in Nick Meaney who has been punished for being continually picked out of position. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been shifted again, this time from the centres to the wing. Luke Thompson (10) and Chris Smith (13) return to the side.
Still in the hunt for a home semi-final, coach Wayne Bennett will be out to ensure they don't take their foot off the accelerator this week.
Canterbury-Bankstown have shown signs of life, however are simply unable to hold onto a lead, nor play out 80 minutes.
The Bulldogs' attacking woes have been no secret to anyone watching the NRL this season, averaging 14.2 points per game vs the Rabbitohs' 24.7 points per game. Their defence fares no better, averaging 24.7 points against per game (yes, exactly what Souths are scoring per game!), vs the Rabbitohs' 17.6 points against per game.
Averillo has expressed his desire to incoming coach Trent Barrett to cement a spot in the halves, so he will be looking to put in another good showing, after putting on two try assists last week. He does have quite a bit of work to do on his defence, however, and against a free-scoring Rabbitohs outfit, may be caught out.
Alex Johnston re-signed with South Sydney during the week, after it seemed certain he was leaving the club. He will be looking to enjoy a field day against the brittle Canterbury defence to celebrate his new contract.
With fullbacks on the wing, centres at fullback and wingers in the centres for the Bulldogs, expect to see Johnston build on his 14 tries and 14 line breaks in 2020.
The favourite: South Sydney are expected to get the win here, it is really a matter of how big a win it will be.
My tip: Souths playing for a potential home final, Canterbury playing for pride and positions in the new Trent Barrett world order. I expect Canterbury to be in the game for the first 20-30 minutes, before the class and superior coaching from Souths takes over. Rabbitohs by 20.