A pair of emphatic wins and a pair of narrow defeats rounded off the 2023 South Sydney Rabbitohs Junior Representative campaigns on what was a wet and wild weekend of football.
NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg Cup Round 5: Bye
Both the NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg Cup teams enjoyed a week off with the bye ahead of their Round 6 matches against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Good Friday.
Rabbitohs Head of Elite Pathways and Development and NSW Cup Head Coach Joe O'Callaghan encouraged Rabbitohs Members and supporters to head out to both matches this week.
"Members and supporters can get the most out of their Good Friday and can get out early to see the sides in action," he said.
"The Bulldogs are leading both competitions, and it'll be a challenge ahead of us in both grades. Flegg are on nice and early at Belmore which will give plenty of time to get out to Accor to see the NSW Cup side.
"We need all the support we can get from Members and fans and we're looking to see plenty of Red and Green out at both venues."
Harvey Norman Women's Premiership Round 9: South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 def St George Dragons 4
Following a close victory last weekend, the Harvey Norman Women's Premiership side backed up their recent scalp to claim a dominant 24-4 win over the St George Dragons at Redfern Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Rabbitohs kicked off from where they left off with a fast start, which included three tries in the first five minutes, with Captain Patricia Raikadroka claiming a double.
It didn't take long before Charlette Butler touched down for the Cardinal and Myrtle's fourth of the afternoon, and while St George managed to return serve, a four-pointer to winger Paige Knapp brought the half-time scores to 24-4.
Itwould have been easy for them to throw in the towel, but they've stuck together as a group and are now getting results at the back end of the season.
With the wet conditions playing their part at Redfern, neither side was able to add to the try-scoring list after the break, with the Rabbitohs securing an impressive 20-point win in what was one of their finest victories of the season so far.
"It was great to see girls claim consecutive wins," O'Callaghan stated.
"It has been a long time in our women's program since we’ve seen that, and I'm very happy for Shane Sultana (Head Coach) and the squad who have gone down in some tight games earlier in the year.
"It would have been easy for them to throw in the towel, but they've stuck together as a group and are now getting results at the back end of the season."
The South Sydney Rabbitohs Harvey Norman Women's Premiership side will face off against Mounties next Saturday at Aubrey Keech Reserve in Hinchinbrook at 1:00pm.
SG Ball Cup Round 9: South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 def St George Dragons 24
The Rabbitohs SG Ball Cup side finished their season on a high on a wet Saturday afternoon at Redfern Oval, defeating St George 32-24.
Winless and luckless up until last weekend, the Red and Greens claimed back-to-back victories to a tough campaign on a winning note, one that was severely affected by injuries.
Brent Hawkins scored South Sydney's first points after the Dragons gained an early advantage, and while their opponents returned serve, tries to Cooper McLaren and Jonti Morshead-Fieldel in a seven-minute period gave the side an 18-12 half-time lead.
The Rabbitohs struck again in quick succession out of the sheds with fullback Dane Towns and Leroy Murray adding their names to the scoresheet as the side took a three-try lead heading into the final fifteen minutes.
While the Dragons brought it back to a six-point game with five remaining, a penalty goal in the shadows of full-time saw the Rabbitohs hold on for a memorable victory.
They showed a lot of character over the last few weeks, and they've been a team that took the field and had eight to nine boys that were young for the age group, so hopefully they can take that confidence into a top eight in 2024.
"It was quite wet out there, but both teams played an entertaining brand of footy and found points," O'Callaghan said.
"It was a bit of a 'what-if' to finish the last three games with a six-point loss and two wins, but it was very encouraging to see the positive way they stuck together to get some results.
"They showed a lot of character over the last few weeks, and they've been a team that took the field and had nine players that were young for the age group, so hopefully they can take that confidence into a top eight finish in 2024.
"We've got nine players who will be involved in the Jersey Flegg squad for the rest of the year, and we've already seen guys like Thomas Fletcher and Liam Le Blanc debut in that grade.
"We're looking to inject some more of those players to boost the Flegg side and get those players some valuable experience heading into 2024."
Tarsha Gale Cup Round 9: South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 def by Canberra Raiders 24
It was a heartbreaking way to end the season for the Tarsha Gale Cup side, who were pipped at the death by the Canberra Raiders 22-24 at Redfern Oval on Saturday.
The Rabbitohs went tit-for-tat with their opponents throughout the contest with a single conversion proving the difference with Shanelle Lyons, Cherellyn Tapuai, Te Ramaarie Muru-Hauraki and Siniva Saanga getting on the scoresheet.
There have been positives for all our female programs this year, especially with the fact we don’t have an NRLW license yet, and the competitiveness they have shown means there are exciting times ahead.
While a try three minutes from the siren saw the two points go to the finals-bound Raiders, the effort and desire shown throughout their entire campaign hasn't gone unnoticed according to O'Callaghan.
"I feel for the girls who were looking for their third win of the year," he stated.
"But Dale Jackson and his group have done a sensational job this year. There were only seventeen fit players available and I thought they did enough to get the result.
"Full credit to Canberra, and while it was a bit of a heartbreaker, it doesn’t take anything from how hard the group has worked and how far they’ve come in the last twelve months.
"A handful of players will be training and playing with the Harvey Norman Women's Premiership squad which will be a great experience for them, and there are a lot of positive signs in our female pathways for the future.
"There have been positives for all our female programs this year, especially considering the fact we don’t have an NRLW license yet, and the competitiveness they have shown means there are exciting times ahead."
Harold Matthews Cup Round 9: South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 def by St George Dragons 30
It was a narrow loss for the Harold Matthews Cup Rabbitohs, who were defeated by the St George Dragons 24-30 in yet another high-scoring game in the wet at the Club's spiritual home ground.
The Red and Green were a mathematical chance of qualifying for the finals ahead of the match but were unable to claim the two competition points which saw them relying on other results to qualify.
Fullback Braethan Bilich touched down for the Rabbitohs after the side conceded an early try, with halfback Matthew Humphries scoring himself soon after as the sides were unable to be separated at the break.
In the last six-week period, Luke Deller and his squad have been undefeated since Round 4, and have strung consistent footy together and it's a credit to all involved.
While their task became harder as the Dragons scored in quick succession just minutes on resumption, Humphries' double coupled with a try to lock Daniel Lua saw the scoreline level once again at 24-apiece.
Unfortunately, a Dragons try with less than ten remaining saw the Rabbitohs trail once more, with the final scoreboard reading 30-24 in favour of the visitors.
"Other results didn’t go our way, so this match was more about the players looking to finish on a high," said O'Callaghan.
"That doesn’t take away from what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, where they've been able to string together some wins and fight for some draws.
"It was a high-scoring match in the wet and it was great to see. Credit to the Dragons, it was 24-all going into the last ten minutes and they found the final punch.
"In the last six-week period, Luke Deller and his squad have been undefeated since Round 4, and have strung consistent footy together, so it's a credit to all involved.
"We're looking forward to what will be an exciting 2024 season."
Lisa Fiaola Cup Round 4: South Sydney Rabbitohs 14 def by Wests Tigers 20
While their final match of the four-week Lisa Fiaola Cup saw the South Sydney Rabbitohs pipped by a converted try to the Wests Tigers, there is plenty of excitement around the Club's female pathways following the side's campaign.
"It was a really physical game out there, but it was a promising campaign that saw 70% of our squad play a year up," O'Callaghan said.
"That means they'll be able to return for 2024, and we're hoping next year the NSWRL will make it a full competition to run in line with the Tarsha Gale Cup, SG Ball Cup, and Harold Matthews Cup.
"If that does occur there are some really exciting signs from our Club. This side won two of their matches and only had a fortnight to train before their first game.
"From a quality and experience point of view, we are certainly hoping it does become a full nine-week competition."
With the SG Ball Cup, Tarsha Gale Cup, Harold Matthews Cup and Lisa Fiaola Cup campaigns now at a close, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will have three pathways sides taking the field from this weekend onward.
- The Jersey Flegg Cup side return from the bye to take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground at 10am this Good Friday.
- Following that match, the NSW Cup side also face the Bulldogs in similar fashion at Accor Stadium, kicking off at 1:40pm.
- On Saturday, the Harvey Norman Womens Premiership side face Mounties at Aubrey Keech Reserve, Hinchinbrook at 1:00pm.
Following the conclusion of the four junior representative seasons, O'Callaghan paid tribute to all who were involved, in a period that saw the South Sydney pathways continue to build for the future.
"People are prone to forget about the commitment made by not just the players but their parents and guardians as well," he said.
We found that there were a lot of positives, and in particular, the work ethic was exceptional and each team ripped in whenever they took the field. Nothing should be taken away from the commitment and effort of players, families, and staff.
"These sides came together in November and it’s a five-month program with training on three nights a week, which can be difficult with a number of men and women juggling studies as well as family and work commitments.
"We'd love to see those grades featuring in the finals of their respective competitions, however, I don’t want anything taken away from the time, effort, and energy all staff and players contributed over the five months.
"We found that there were a lot of positives, and in particular, the work ethic was exceptional and each team ripped in whenever they took the field. Nothing should be taken away from the commitment and effort of players, families, and staff.
"We want it clear to Members and fans that it is disappointing for those sides not playing finals, and that we have had some good results to take into next year's competitions."