Inside this week's Big League magazine...
NO coach will ever admit it but I am of the belief that that there is such a thing as a well-timed loss.
With each passing week at Redfern the sense that the 42-year premiership drought is about to be broken grows greater and greater and South Sydney fans come to the realisation that this may actually be the year.
The Rabbitohs have just two losses this season (Storm and Sharks) and going into Sunday’s clash with the Warriors have won their past four in a row. There are tough games every week and a poor performance can pop up out of nowhere but as momentum builds around the Bunnies I can’t help feeling that an off week a month before the finals wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing.
Last year was full of excitement, new beginnings and a team writing its own chapters among the storied pages of one of the game’s most celebrated histories. The ‘Pride of the League’ was no longer said with ironic undertones; this team was once again among the best in the land.
Now here we are, 10 rounds remaining in the regular season, and the Rabbitohs hold a four-point lead at the top of the table with their most despised rival, the Roosters from the eastern suburbs, just itching to spoil the party.
It’s a possible grand final match-up that has marketing types salivating and one that would grip an entire city and the rugby league nation as a whole. These teams have not played against each other in a grand final since South Sydney beat Eastern Suburbs 12-7 in 1931 and in a massive year for events at ANZ Stadium, a rematch 82 years in the making may yet be the biggest of the lot.
But we’re not there yet and the best we can look forward to at this point is the Round 26 clash between the two foundation clubs, most likely on the Friday night.
The final details for the fixed scheduling of Rounds 20-26 was still to be released as we went to print but the game we’ll all be talking about will be at ANZ as the Rabbitohs and Roosters eye off the minor premiership.
I’ll go out on a limb and say this: That game will break the record for the largest regular-season attendance for a match in Sydney in the NRL’s history, a mark that was set in April when the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs attracted 51,686.
But the best thing of all? There’s a chance the Rabbits and Roosters will have to come back a week later and do it all over again in Week One of the Finals.
Coach Michael Maguire – voted as the best coach currently in the game in our most recent fan poll – will deny it until the Telstra Premiership Trophy is sitting on his desk back at SSFC HQ but there is a different feeling among Rabbitohs fans in 2013. Last year they were simply happy to see their team winning again; this year they’re feeling they are on the verge of something special.
They have been cautiously optimistic about their team’s credentials but the evidence continues to stack up on a weekly basis. It’s time to get excited, because who knows how long the ride will last.