Rabbitohs can go back-to-back: Renouf
Broncos great Steve Renouf believes South Sydney have the squad to overcome the loss of Sam Burgess and win back-to-back premierships but warned that there will be a mental letdown along the way.
As part of the 1992-93 Broncos squad that won consecutive Winfield Cup titles Renouf is a member of rugby league royalty in Queensland as the years between consecutive premiers in a unified competition stretches out now to 22 years.
Never in the history of the game in Australia have we had to wait this long for a team to parlay one premiership into another the very next year and Renouf believes the Rabbitohs are well positioned to break yet another long-standing drought.
The Rabbitohs begin their premiership defence with a blockbuster against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night and Renouf believes South Sydney's pre-season performances are a good indicator of how they will enter 2015.
"I think they're on the right track. Obviously it's very early, we haven't even played the first round, and I think they will miss Sammy Burgess. We saw the role he played for them last year; that would be their only concern," Renouf told NRL.com.
"Outside of that I think they do have the team that can do it. Sam's brothers (George and Thomas Burgess) are still there and they've got their strike power in the backs and still have a formidable forward pack.
"When we went through it [in 1993] we didn't really think too much about it too early in the season because that can railroad you a bit.
"We just concentrated on making a good start to the year and making sure you're in a good place come certain parts of the year.
"There are certain targets you have during the year for where you want to be on the table and you're working towards that one goal which is reaching that grand final again."
The euphoric scenes in the wake of South Sydney's first premiership in 43 years will never be forgotten by those who were at ANZ Stadium to witness it and Renouf believes there are some parallels that can be drawn with the Broncos of 1992.
Bitterly disappointed at failing to make the finals the year before, the Broncos dropped just four games in the regular season and then accounted for Illawarra in the Major Semi-Final and St George in the Grand Final to spark extraordinary scenes of celebration throughout Queensland.
The following year the Broncos finished fifth after 22 rounds and had to get through Manly, Canberra and Canterbury before once again meeting the Dragons in the decider.
"Those two years, we probably did drop off a bit to be honest, if you compare 1992 to 1993," Renouf admitted.
"They've probably got to be careful of that. They're coming off a high and they've really got to find something within themselves to get there again.
"There's that euphoria of winning one – Souths hadn't won one for a while, back then it was our first – and the period of savouring that from the end of the season to the start of the next goes very quick.
"You have to start again and then there's 26 rounds standing between you and that grand final."
The Broncos of 1993 dropped two of their first three games to begin their premiership defence and Renouf – who scored 142 tries in 183 appearances for Brisbane – believes the Rabbitohs are also set for a rocky start on Thursday night.
"I really think Brisbane will spring a surprise," he said. "Everyone seems to think that Souths are going to come up here and dominate but what Brisbane showed against Wigan is that our backs are ready to go and we've toughened up with our recruiting in the middle.
"That's where we've got to match them and I think they can match them and I think there's every chance we'll get a win on Thursday night.
"I really do believe that and the one factor that helps me with that – and not to put any pressure on him – is that we've got Wayne Bennett, he's back home."