It’s been a long and sometimes painful journey for South Sydney fans over the last 10 years. Between their return in 2002 and 2011, they made the semi finals just once (in 2007) and won three wooden spoons, and only missed the wooden spoon in 2002 due to the Bulldogs salary cap breaches. They went through six coaches before settling on Michael Maguire at the beginning of the 2012 season.
All that does is show how remarkable the club’s turnaround has been in the past two seasons. The only remaining player from the wooden spoon squad in 2003 is Nathan Merritt, who in fact had a two year spell at Cronulla, while Ashley Harrison and Mark Minichiello currently ply their trade at the Titans and David Fa’alogo at the Knights.
In that fateful 2003 season they won just three games. They have already won three times that in the 2013 season, and have already scored over half as many points as they did in that entire season in just 10 rounds.
It’s not hard to pinpoint where things started to turnaround - it was the point Souths started to target the stars and expect success. In 2007 they signed Roy Asotasi from the Bulldogs, who at the time, was rated one of the best front rowers in the world. He was joined by fellow internationals David Kidwell and Nigel Vagana. In 2007 the Rabbitohs made the finals for the first time in 18 years, and it was no coincidence after that recruitment drive.
But it didn’t stop there. While they didn’t make the finals again until 2012, they were slowly accumulating a roster good enough to challenge the top sides. Premiership winning international Michael Crocker joined in 2009 and boom Englishman Sam Burgess followed in 2010. But then came the cream of the crop in 2011 - arguably the best player in the world Greg Inglis.
Success didn’t come straight away, but when Maguire was appointed in 2012, a little light seemed to switch on for Souths. Rookie halfback Adam Reynolds took the competition by storm, and five-eighth John Sutton gained the consistency he’d been craving since debut. It all just clicked.
In 2013 they added Ben Te’o and Jeff Lima, and it seems that they now have the 'no mercy' attitude they arguably lacked previously. They sit outright first after 10 rounds for the first time in over 50 years.
It’s a transformation not too many people saw happening, but those who believed and invested in Souths, knew would happen. It seems the Rusty revolution is finally coming to pass. It's quite remarkable and pleasing to see really.
Smooth Move of the Week
We’ve seen some pretty audacious plays on debut, but I think this takes the cake. Tyrone Peachey, nephew of Sharks legend David, pulled off a miraculous chip and chase in his first NRL game which looked to have sealed a win for the Shire boys after a second half resurgence from Canberra, only for it to be disallowed after he gave Matt McIlwrick a slight bump in the back.