South Sydney Rabbitohs 2018 season review

When the Rabbitohs went on their nine-game winning streak it seemed as if 2018 was going to be their year.

That didn't turn out to be the case but the year will still be remembered as one in which major steps forward were made.

Falling one game short of the grand final  - and being eliminated by cross-city rivals the Sydney Roosters - left a sour taste, but 2018 can't be viewed as a failure considering they made a mockery of many a pre-season poll.

Anthony Seibold's influence as a rookie head coach had a significant impact on their success, as did the superb year enjoyed by the likes of Damien Cook, the three Burgess brothers, Adam Reynolds and Robert Jennings.

Off-season news that Seibold will depart the club in 2020 (which could yet end up being sooner) presents a possible distraction heading into 2019.

Best player: Damien Cook was undoubtedly the Bunnies' player of the year, finishing first in the NRL in dummy-half runs (173) and third in tackles made (1060) while also racking up 2601 running metres. After winning the battle over Robbie Farah for the starting hooker spot, the former junior national beach flags champion was rewarded with an Origin jersey. He has been rewarded by being named in the Kangaroos squad.

What-if moment: That has to be the heart-breaking one-point loss to the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in week one of the finals. If they had held on to a six-point lead late in the game it would've given the Rabbitohs a week off and a preliminary final in Sydney.

The quote: "I just saw him come back [from Origin] with so much confidence in his leadership skills off the back of that experience that Kevvie [Walters] gave him there. When you've got Greg in your changeroom before the game it gives people confidence, there's no doubt about that - he's got a presence about him and the guys feed off the back of that." Anthony Seibold after Greg Inglis returned from his first Maroons campaign as captain.

Best win: Defeating the Dragons 13-12 at ANZ Stadium in week two of the semis when halfback Adam Reynolds displayed a show-stopping performance, scoring a try and kicking three field goals to elevate the Bunnies into the preliminary finals.

Worst loss: Complacency got the best of the Bunnies in their round-19 clash against the Wests Tigers, resulting in a disappointing 22-6 loss at ANZ Stadium and the end of their nine-game winning streak.

Roster rotation: South Sydney will miss Angus Crichton and his ability to handle the tough stuff in the middle and pop up at the right time on the edges. A NSW Origin rookie in 2018, Crichton has joined the Roosters, while Jason Clark is heading to the UK to play with the Warrington Wolves. On the plus side, the Bunnies have added prop Kurt Dillon from Cronulla and Bayley Sironen from the Tigers.

Rabbitohs back-rower Angus Crichton.
Rabbitohs back-rower Angus Crichton. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

2019 outlook: After falling one game short of the grand final in 2013, the Rabbitohs won it all the following year. A big question mark hangs over the level of disruption that will be introduced by news Wayne Bennett will take over the club from 2020 with Seibold set to join Brisbame - and whether that may end up triggering a coach swap between the two clubs for 2019. But either way the future looks promising if the club continues to build on what they showcased this year, assuming everyone stays fit and injury free.