Ben Blaschke, NRL.com
1. Souths win Round 1 of the ‘Rivalry’
Souths opened their 2013 campaign with a statement of intent as they powered their way to a 28-10 win over rivals Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium. The match was front page of the newspapers in the lead-up with the long-awaited return to the NRL of Sonny Bill Williams but Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess welcomed him back the only way he knows how with a huge hit that sat the Williams on his backside. The Roosters were first to score through new arrival James Maloney but from there Souths dominated the match with Nathan Merritt scoring a hat-trick.
2. The Inglis factor
South Sydney’s impressive season came on the back of a number of star performances but none impressed more than fullback Greg Inglis. Playing the best football of his already brilliant career, Inglis set about tearing opposition defensive lines to shreds as South Sydney shot out of the blocks. His 18 games so far this season have brought him 14 tries and 12 line-breaks, an average 152 metres per game and a whopping 97 tackle-breaks.
3. By George (Burgess)!
Rarely has an NRL rookie player made as huge an impact in his first season as giant Rabbitohs prop George Burgess. From the moment he scored a barnstorming solo try against the Roosters in Round 1, big George announced himself as the ultimate impact weapon as he went about skittling defenders with his near unstoppable runs. He also formed a key part of one of South Sydney’s pet plays, which would see him win a quick play-the-ball near the try line before Issac Luke would fire the ball to brother Sam Burgess to crash over from the next play.
4. Two magic plays v Gold Coast
Souths travelled to Cairns to take on the Gold Coast in Round 14 and came away with a thrilling 30-24 victory courtesy of two stunning plays. The first came just before half-time when, trailing 18-12, they produced some razzle-dazzle with the ball touching multiple sets of hands before Reynolds launched a pinpoint chip kick for Dylan Walker to score. Then in the dying minutes with the Rabbitohs clinging to a six-point lead, Gold Coast halfback Albert Kelly broke clear down the right touchline – but the opportunity went begging as Greg Inglis pulled off a brilliant try-saving tackle to seal his side’s victory.
5. Inglis and Sutton sidelined
Having looked certainties for the minor premiership for much of the year, untimely injuries to fullback Greg Inglis and five-eighth John Sutton saw them lose momentum as the finals race heated up. Souths lost three out for games between Rounds 19 and 22 – including shock losses to St George Illawarra and North Queensland – to drop down to second on the NRL ladder behind arch-rivals the Roosters.
6. Storm still their bogy side?
Souths beat just about all before them in 2013, but they couldn’t get over the top of the Melbourne Storm. Showing all of their big game experience, the Storm ground out a narrow 17-10 win at ANZ Stadium in Round 6 and then put the Rabbitohs to the sword with a 26-8 win at AAMI Park in Round 11. Coach Michael Maguire will be hoping his side learnt plenty from those clashes – with the sides locking horns for a third mouth-watering encounter on Friday night.
7. Hard to tackle
A physically imposing side with a monstrous forward pack, no side proved as difficult to tackle in 2013 as South Sydney. They topped the NRL for tackle-breaks this season with 672 at an average 28 per game per game, with their outside men proving particularly elusive: Greg Inglis led the way with 97 followed by George Burgess (85), Issac Luke (71), Sam Burgess (65) and John Sutton (63).
8. The Reynolds kicking game
Halfback Adam Reynolds tormented opposition sides with the pinpoint accuracy of his attacking kicking game. The master at putting the ball where he wants it, the two tries he set up against Cronulla in Round 2 were superb – the first a chip to the right edge for Andrew Everingham to score and the second a grubber from 20 metres out that split the defenders perfectly and allowed Dylan Farrell to win the race. The grubber is among Reynolds’ favourite kicks and he has produced 46 of them this season as well as 45 bombs and 42 cross-field kicks.
9. One Burgess, two Burgess, three Burgess, four!
Much has been made of the four Burgess boys – Sam, George, Luke and Tom – in 2013 but it wasn’t until South Sydney’s Round 25 clash with Wests Tigers that all four of them lived out a dream by taking the field together for the first time. Weighing in at a combined 460kg, it was the first time in 103 years of first grade rugby league that four brothers had played in the same team at the same time and they celebrated in style with both Sam and Luke scoring in a 36-18 win. The sight of their mother Julie celebrating in the stands remains one of the enduring images of the season.
10. Minor premiership eludes them
The most anticipated game of the season saw South Sydney host their old rivals Sydney Roosters in Round 26 with the prize for the victor being the minor premiership. Unfortunately for Souths, the opportunity to secure their first minor premiership since 1989 slipped away as they fell to a 24-12 defeat. Despite a strong start, the Roosters’ big men dominated the second half to lay the platform for a 14-nil rout in what must serve as a warning of where they need to improve if they are to go all the way in 2013.