NRL.com Stats has crunched the relevant numbers for the tantalising Storm v Rabbitohs clash on Friday night and discovered that whoever wins, they will have to overcome some quirky stats.
Rabbitohs head to bogey ground
If the Rabbitohs were to win on Friday, they would have to overcome one almighty hoodoo – they have never won in Melbourne. In fact, their overall head-to-head record of 5-24 against the Storm is concerning in itself.
Admittedly the period since the Storm joined the NRL in 1998 coincided in large part with a low ebb in Rabbitohs history but the head-to-head numbers haven't improved in the time since Souths emerged as a genuine force in the early 2010s.
Until a hugely impressive 30-20 win over the Storm at ANZ in round 21, the Rabbitohs had only won one of their past 12 meetings against Melbourne.
The raw numbers on their trips to Melbourne read: 14 games, 14 losses, combined score 473-114, average score 34-8.
Seven of those games were at Olympic Park and seven at AAMI Park. The average score at AAMI Park, which has been used since 2010, is 27-10.
Storm need to overcome premiers' curse
There will be a bit of history weighing on the Storm as well. Not since 2004 have the premiers won their first match of the post-season.
On that occasion it was Penrith edging out the Dragons 31-30 after finishing fourth.
- the '04 Bulldogs missed the '05 finals;
- the following year Wests Tigers suffered the same fate;
- in '07 Brisbane finished eighth and were thrashed 40-0 by the Storm in their qualifying final;
- in '08 the Storm finished top but were upset by the eighth-placed Warriors 18-15;
- in '09 Manly finished fifth and were thrashed 40-12 by the Storm in the first week of the finals;
- in '10 Melbourne were struck out of finals contention by a salary cap penalty;
- in '11 the Dragons went down 21-12 to the Tigers;
- in '12 Manly lost 16-12 to minor premiers Canterbury;
- in '13 the Storm lost 20-10 to this week's opponents South Sydney at ANZ Stadium in a second v third clash;
- in '14 the Roosters were upset 19-18 by Penrith;
- in '15 Souths lost 28-12 against Cronulla;
- in '16 the Cowboys went down 26-20 against Brisbane;
- in '17 the Sharks lost 15-14 to the Cowboys.
The Storm have at least kept the tradition of premiers making the finals the following year alive – the '05 Tigers were the last premiers who failed to win enough games to make the top eight the following year.
Even if the Storm lose they will still hold out hope of becoming the first team since the 1992-93 Broncos to win back-to-back titles but history shows that will be a tough record to overcome as well.
Last time they met
The above-mentioned round 21 clash was arguably the best of South Sydney's 16 wins for this Telstra Premiership season. It was arguably the best performance of Damien Cook's stunning breakout season. It was Souths' first win over the Storm since 2013. And they largely did it through playing positive football.
They threw the ball around more (253 passes to 205) despite possession being evenly split 50-50 and the Storm popping 17 offloads to two.
In all Souths out-ran the Storm by 1594 metres to 1316 with 428 post contact metres to 325 and an average set distance of 42 metres versus the Storm's 38.7 metres.
They made nine line breaks to four. An average play-the-ball speed of 3.08 seconds against 3.26 seconds for the Storm laid the perfect platform for Cook's slick dummy-half running game and certainly laid the blueprint for what will be the Rabbitohs' best chance for a maiden win in bleak city on Friday night.
Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series