They’ve been handed the toughest start in the competition with back-to-back matches against last year’s grand finalists, but Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire says his side wouldn’t have it any other way.
Speaking ahead of Friday night’s mouth-watering clash with the Sea Eagles in Gosford, Maguire said his side has welcomed the chance to renew hostilities with two of the competition’s heavyweights so early in the season.
“It’s a good start to know exactly where you are playing against the two teams that were in the [grand] final last year,” said Maguire, now in his third season in charge of the famous red and green.
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“I was really pleased that we played a game for 80 minutes the other night which is something that we’ve spoken about and we want to make sure we can do that each week and that’s our challenge to roll it into Round 2.”
And following up their impressive first-round thumping of the Roosters with another strong showing against Manly would make an emphatic statement that Souths can aim up in the big matches after being bundled out of last year’s preliminary finals by the Sea Eagles, though Maguire was quick to point out that Geoff Toovey’s men would be keen to atone for their second-half capitulation against the Storm last weekend.
“It was very unlike a Manly team so I know they’re going to be out fired up this week and we have to make sure we’re well and truly on our game," he said.
“In that first half they were on fire and put a lot of great plays on and showed their capabilities and no doubt they’ll try and do that this week.
“They’ve been a quality team for a long time… It’s going to be a real quality game with good battles in the front row and no doubt out on the edges. With players like [Jamie] Lyon and [Steve] Matai they’ve got a lot of strike on the edges so that will add a lot of spice to the game.”
Maguire also confirmed five eighth Dylan Walker would be fit for his second first grade match in his new playmaking role after the Rabbitohs junior limped off late in the game against the Roosters.
While Greg Inglis came out firing with a hat-trick and Sam Burgess put months of speculation over his departure to rugby union behind him with a man of the match performance, the promise Walker showed in his first appearance in the halves was one of the key positives Souths took out of their Round 1 victory.
The former Australian schoolboy proved himself a handful in attack against the Roosters, busting the line four times and sending second-rower Chris McQueen on a long run down field with a clever short ball.
“Dylan’s been able to slot into that position and adds a lot to us,” said Maguire, who predicted the young half would have no issues should Manly target him as his baptism of fire against the competition’s best continues.
“He’s a tough kid, definitely... and you can see that in the way he plays. He runs hard and he’s a real competitor so the boys love playing with him.”