Schick Hydro Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Rugby league. A game where a whole spectrum of emotions can be felt throughout a mere 80 minutes every weekend.
This NRL Telstra Premiership fixture will be no different as the Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers put it all on the line on Thursday night in the name of ending their respective losing streaks.
Let's do the maths. The Rabbitohs have lost their past three games despite the return of influential halfback Adam Reynolds a fortnight ago.
The average losing margin in this period for South Sydney has been 18.3 points – something that'll surely make coach Michael Maguire's knuckles go white.
The Wests Tigers haven't won since Round 2. A whole six games ago. Last Saturday afternoon was their worst showing of the year, with the Raiders pummelling them 60-6.
Their six-game losing streak is unacceptable by any NRL club's standards but it's not as bad as it seems at first glance.
Prior to feeling the force of the Green Machine, the Tigers had only lost on average by a converted try in 2016. Tim Simona's return from suspension in the centres will only help their cause.
The Rabbitohs will welcome back Kyle Turner who will replace the suspended Paul Carter. Kirisome Auva'a will start in the centres – with Hymel Hunt's (ruptured pec) season all but over – which allows for George Burgess to return on the bench.
Watch out Rabbitohs: It's about time Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses reignited this Wests Tigers team. Their form hasn't necessarily dictated their losing run but when these two are flying so are the Tigers. Sure, both men are in the NRL's Top 10 when it comes to try assists – Brooks has seven try assists (equal-fifth) and Moses has six (equal-ninth),but their defence is of most concern. Between them they were responsible for a third of their team's 35 missed tackles against the Raiders.
Watch out Wests Tigers: With his cousin Hunt all but out for the season it's time for Auva'a to lift. Auva'a has managed to play the majority of games this year but he's come off the bench for the most part. Now Hunt is gone, Auva'a needs to find some good form quickly which could spell danger for the Tigers.
Key Match-Up: Greg Inglis v James Tedesco: What Greg Inglis has done this season, James Tedesco has done even better. The Tigers fullback is the NRL's joint leading try scorer (alongside Anthony Milford) and is streets ahead in terms of tackle breaks across the competition with 54. Inglis sits just outside of the top 20 when it comes to tackle breaks in a sign that the Rabbitohs skipper needs to seek more ball in open space rather than take hitups in bad field position.
The History: Played 26; Rabbitohs 15, Wests Tigers 11. The Rabbitohs have won nine of their past 12 games against the Tigers, dating back to 2010. However when these two teams met in Round 14 last year it was the Wests Tigers who emerged huge 34-6 victors thanks to try-scoring doubles from Tedesco and now-Sea Eagle Martin Taupau.
What are the Odds: It seems no one wants to back Wests Tigers with 90 per cent of all money invested on South Sydney. The Rabbitohs have been overwhelmingly backed to win 13-plus with Sportsbet, and punters expect them to cover the line as well. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant Referee: Matt Noyen. Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis and Kasey Badger.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live coverage from 7:30pm; Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 7:30pm
The way we see it: This game is pretty much like choosing between a rock and a hard place. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. As much as you'd hope the Tigers will bounce back from their heavy defeat, the Rabbitohs showed enough promising signs against premiership heavyweights Brisbane last Friday night to give them the edge in this one. Rabbitohs by two points.