Another year & another top 4 finish for the Rabbitohs which is quite a nice thing to say after the club spent so long in the wilderness.
Even more satisfying for me was that I won my bet I have every year with my mate the Roosters fan Con Parris.
Our long-standing wager is the team that finishes highest on the ladder out of the Bunnies & the Evil Empire wins a box of beer for the victor at the others expense.
I don’t remember the last time I collected & even in 2014 when we won the competition, I still had to cough up a slab because the latte sippers finished higher than us on the ladder. That was tough.
Last week the Dragons were terrible for the majority of the game & we saw a couple of youngsters put in eye catching performances in Pete Mamouzelos & Lachy Ilias who scored a try on debut. I thought Davvy Moale did well too & when you consider that he’s only 18 years old the future looks bright for our emerging talent.
We all know the story that the Rabbitohs have fallen at the last hurdle in 3 consecutive preliminary finals & this year missing one of our best players in Latrell doesn’t leave me filled with a whole lot of confidence that it won’t happen again.
Even at full strength the Bunnies were up against it. The Storm put 50 on us earlier in the year & the team they’ve picked this week has Harry Grant, Nicho Hynes & Nelson Asofa-Solomona on the bench!
The Panthers have beaten us twice & one of those was also a 50-point hammering.
In good news those last few points I made will be the last of the negativity that you will have to endure in this article.
I co-host Rabbitohs Radio & bleed red & green so let’s get to the good stuff.
We played sensational footy for the first 30 minutes to lead 12 nil against the Panthers in round 23 at Suncorp. We went on to concede 25 unanswered points but that was assisted by some nauseating officiating.
Points tend to flow on the back of an 11-2 penalty count so on an even playing field I believe we can beat them this time around up in Townsville.
Our bench is almost as impressive as the Storms & looks equally as good as the Panthers if not better.
The Panthers do have Tevita Pangai Junior & Liam Martin sitting on the pine but we have Jai Arrow, Benji, Jacob Host & big Tommy as our super subs.
The key to victory I believe lies in our spine & in particular in the hands of Cody Walker. We need him to rise to the occasion on the big stage & produce the type of playmaking that saw him set up a 1000 tries this year.
We need Cody to lead us all the way to the gf & take care of some unfinished business in the big games.
Captain Reyno has been tremendous all year, the way he digs into the line & straightens our attack is so valuable. It’s a big reason that our lethal left side punishes defences & allows AJ to score with ridiculous ease. We need to see that through the finals & Adams’ magical kicking game has to be at it’s very best to put pressure on the opposition & give us the vital field position required for our star backline to shine.
We definitely need Cookie to give his usual great service from dummy half but it’s vital that he runs the ball & keeps the big Panthers pack honest around the ruck.
If Damien can bust out a few of his darting bursts that we love so much then the flow on effect from that equates to more space on the edges for our attack.
Rookie Blake Taaffe played well last week & although there were a couple of forgettable moments he brings the ball back efficiently, can make a break & has the ability to set up tries like he’s done twice already in the limited game time he’s had.
We’ve interviewed Blake on our podcast, I know his dad Darren & uncle Brad so I am perhaps a bit biased but I really hope this kid can find some space out there on Saturday night & explode through a few holes to show everyone what he’s capable of. Blake has plenty of ability so don’t be surprised if you see him do some handy work for this team.
We need to have great line speed in defence to put pressure on Jarome Luai & especially Nathan Cleary. If we allow their Origin halfback to keep putting up those eye watering bombs it won’t end well & then we have to take care of & field the ones he does get up & away.
A huge defensive effort is essential against a team featuring metre monster Brian To’o, Crichton, Burton, Kikau etc.
Look for big games from our back three, Cameron, Keaon & Jaydn. Cameron will work himself to a standstill & take the line on. Keaon keeps getting better & is a post contact metre beast. Look out for more big shots from Jaydn like the one he put on Fletcher Baker 2 weeks ago.
Let’s roll up the sleeves rip in, go out there & give it to these blokes. Let them know that the mighty Rabbitohs are in town.
The final pieces of the puzzle are the two bookends Junior & the Goat. Junior keeps producing up front & Nico has to be one of the most improved players I’ve ever seen.
Win the battle in the middle, complete at a high rate, have a good kicking game & let the backs finish them off.
If we do that then I’m confident we can win in that magnificent new Townsville stadium that we can’t attend anytime soon.
If we do get rolled then the next test will be an elimination game with either the beatable Eels or a Knights team that limped into the finals.
A fourth shot at a prelim is entirely possible & if Souths can get past that stage who knows what might happen, maybe even number 22.
Souths by 4
By Steve Mavin