Maguire: Hype not on our radar
Astute South Sydney mentor Michael Maguire stresses he isn't about to buy into the hype building around his team's premiership credentials and is instead focused on devising a plan to get the better of the desperate Broncos on Thursday night.
Six weeks ago the Rabbitohs were seemingly struggling, losing to the Cowboys and the Titans, with the team considered by most pundits to be well off the premiership pace. Even as recently as two weeks ago, after they dismantled the Knights 50-10, they were described as "predictable" by mastercoach Wayne Bennett.
Was it a ploy by Bennett to take the attention away from his club's troubles? Sure, but these claims stuck around for the week leading into their clash against the ladder-leading Sea Eagles.
Following their 23-4 victory over Manly last Friday night, the Rabbitohs now sit pretty in second place and share premiership favouritism - yet Maguire insists that all eyes are on this Thursday night's opponent alone.
"For us this weekend is all we are focused on because that's all we can control for us in this round. This one is a very, very important one for us, like every other game," Maguire said.
"[Brisbane] ask a lot of questions. They can move it from one side of the field to the other and [possess] good halves that show-and-go and forwards that run extremely hard so defensively we need to keep showing up like we have been the past few weeks and our concentration at every moment has to be spot-on."
While the Souths mentor admitted that their week-to-week approach at the back end of the season is a cliché, Maguire noted that while they may sit only two points from the top rung of the ladder and have secured their ticket to finals football already, they are still intent on effectively looking after their own backyard - despite talk that gun Broncos centre Justin Hodges is expected to play on Thursday.
"We plan heading into the game as if these players are going to be playing. If they turn up then they are in there and if they're not we have to make sure they're performing with who is out there because they have good replacements. For us our focus is on very much what we can control," Maguire said.
"This competition is a very tight competition so every two points is vital. [The tide] can turn quickly on any team so we have to make sure we're focused on doing everything possible for the win because they are important heading into the back end of the season."
With the tenth-placed Broncos expected to bring a do-or-die attitude to their football against the Rabbitohs, Maguire realises the threat the visitors could pose. However, he is quick to point out that the possibility of climbing even higher on the premiership ladder will ensure the team remains level-headed.
"It is momentum we are trying to build and the past couple of weeks we have done that," Maguire said.
"In saying that, we have to do that again on Thursday night because we're playing against a team that has... a quality team across the park. Our attitude towards our attack and defence is the biggest key."
In positive news for the Rabbitohs, captain John Sutton is expected to return before the finals with Maguire suggesting that he is around two to three weeks away from full fitness.
"Sutton is working really hard in the background," Maguire said. "He has had good results from the surgeon earlier in the week and he said that things are healing the way they should be."