Mid-season Report Card: Rabbitohs

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Mid-season Report Card


Position: 9th
Wins: 5
Losses: 6
Draws: 1
Byes: 1
Points: 13
Differential: -19

What can you make of the South Sydney Rabbitohs circa 2009? Well, they are certainly travelling better than this time last year when they had just two wins and were anchored in last place but fans can be forgiven for still being disappointed as a recent mini-slump has seen them fall out of the finals zone.

When the side opened the season with an absolute shellacking of cross-town rivals the Sydney Roosters (52-12), the hopes reached atmospheric heights, and the positive feelings remained when the side won two of the following three to be sitting pretty atop the competition.

But the following eight games have yielded just two wins against the struggling Sharks (32-26) and Wests Tigers (23-22) and a draw against the underperforming Eels (16-16).

It has caused a rethink amongst the NRL faithful and expectations are now back where they have been for quite some time down Redfern way: not particularly high.

But inside the South Sydney bunker, they still expect great things, and they hope to lift in the back half to give their fans a nice surprise.

Are Things Going To Plan?
The season started out well but has been heading down the drain in more recent times, particularly the past two weeks before the halfway point. Massive losses at the hands of the Raiders (34-18) and the Cowboys (46-12) have seen the Rabbitohs fall a win-and-a-half outside the top eight and dragged their defence down to being the fourth worst in the league.

Coach Jason Taylor certainly didn’t plan for the drop in intensity and knows he needs more from his troops, particularly halfback Chris Sandow. They are equal second last when it comes to line breaks, a real worry going forward, and are making fewer metres across the ground than all but three other clubs. Their goal-line defence is the worst in the league.

Injury Front…
With just 23 players used thus far the Rabbitohs have had better injury luck than some other sides but they have been without fullback Rhys Wesser for all but two games and centre Shaun Corrigan for all but four games. Losing John Sutton to a broken hand in the City-Country game wasn’t ideal, but he has since returned to the side.

If Only… The Rabbitohs have been poor in their two matches against the Eels this season, losing 14-8 in Round 2 and then failing to break a 16-16 deadlock in Round 11. Had they come to the ground with the intensity needed, they would be still inside the top eight. The side also had its chances in the wet against the Bulldogs when losing 14-12, and the 22-14 loss to the Titans on the Gold Coast was in the balance in the dying stages when it appeared Sandow had snatched victory – only for the video referee to correctly deny them.

Who’s Flying…
Craig Wing is the shining light for the Rabbitohs, which is ironic as the season has been punctuated by rumour after rumour that the Rabbitohs are trying to unload him. The impressive utility has returned to the Origin arena due to his explosiveness and he is filling all sorts of roles for the Rabbitohs be it halfback, five-eighth, lock or hooker.

John Sutton has battled hard with seven line-break assists and 12 try assists, while wingers Nathan Merritt and Fetuli Talanoa have scored eight tries each with the latter also adding seven line breaks. Centre Beau Champion has his moments and also has seven line breaks from just nine games and five tries. Then there is Michael Crocker, who in just three games has lifted the intensity of the South Sydney pack.

Needs To Lift…
The Rabbitohs’ forwards most definitely need to up the ante if the side is to arrest the form slump. Roy Asotasi and Luke Stuart have been fair, averaging 111 and 106 metres respectively, but they and the others need to do more to compete with the top sides. Colin Best’s form has been down on his massive 2008 and Sandow seems to be showing some second-year syndrome effects. The young half, who was dynamite last season, has just one line break, one line-break assist, two try assists and two tries for the entire first half of the year.

Jason Taylor Tells NRL.com…
“We have had some good moments – and certainly some not so good moments at this point of the year. Our biggest concern going into the back half of the year is an attempt to find more consistency in our football; we need to have good moments more often.”

Predicted Finish… It would be a big surprise if the Rabbitohs fought their way back into the finals but it is still possible. But 8th to 12th is more likely.

Under-20s… The Rabbitohs under-20s started the season with back-to-back wins but then fell to four straight losses. Since that point they have had three wins, two losses and a draw to move into seventh spot on the ladder. Centre Taioalo Vaivai is proving elusive, as is fullback Malcolm Webster while captain Jason Clark remains solid in the forwards.