Over the coming weeks, Rabbitohs.com.au will take you through all the contenders for every jumper in the red and green’s starting 13. Every number is up for grabs, and those looking to fill the spots are as hungry as ever. Today, we give you the wingmen.
Competition for wing spots will be hot at the Rabbitohs this season, with Nathan Merritt, Bryson Goodwin, Joel Reddy, Beau Champion and newly graduated under 20’s winger Alex Johnston making up the list of hopefuls. Goodwin, Reddy and Champion double up as centres for the Rabbitohs, but competition will be stiff as Rabbitohs across the park look to force their way into a stratung jumper.
For Rabbitohs Coach Michael Maguire, the fight for the flanks is one that opens a depth of opportunities for the hopefuls.
“There’s definitely some opportunities there,” said Maguire.
“Obviously we have plenty of experience in guys like Nathan Merritt Bryson Goodwin and Beau Champion who have played there in the past.
“But you also have Joel Reddy coming in now – who has played there for the Tigers and Eels – and then Alex Johnston who has played really well in the NYC.
“Right now, it’s just about those players working hard and lifting the already high standards they’ve set and continuing to push each other to be better.”
Nathan Merritt stands as one of the constants in the Rabbitohs’ backline over the course of his glittering career, and is a welcome contender for the fullback position, although he will likely line up on his favored wing.
Merritt is a particularly dangerous player when on the Rabbitohs flank, with his brilliant finishing ability on the outside of halves and fellow Souths Juniors, Adam Reynolds and John Sutton.
The 2013 season was punctuated by three milestones for ‘Merro’, with the long-time Rabbitoh awarded a Blues jumper while also playing his 200th game for the Club. But it was his equalling of an almost century-long held club try-scoring record that stood out – Merritt equalling Benny Wearing’s 144 Rabbitohs career tries. Merritt now only needs one try to break the record in 2014.
In many ways, Bryson Goodwin’s arrival and subsequent success at Redfern was the inspirational story of 2013. Having endured a ruptured spleen playing for the Bulldogs in 2012 – an injury that threatened not only his playing career, but his life – Goodwin proceeded to remake a name for himself at the Rabbitohs in 2013.
And make a name for himself he did, with the talented centre/winger not only cementing his spot in the starting 13 with his solid running and defence, but also earning a re-call to the New Zealand side for the World Cup where he played an integral role for the Kiwis.
In his 25 appearances for the club in 2013, Goodwin bagged 42 points while also amassing 57 tackle-breaks, 13 line-breaks and four try-assists playing both in the centres and on the wing. His ability in general play is complimented by his first-class goal-kicking, the Rabbitoh easily able to cover for Adam Reynolds’ should duty call.
In many ways, Joel Reddy shapes as one of the Rabbitohs’ potential X-factors in 2014. Having spent much of 2013 on the sidelines at the Wests Tigers, Reddy is keen to earn his spot in the fiercely competitive Rabbitohs backline.
Despite only making 14 appearances in 2013, Reddy earned himself a City Origin spot on the back of his 15 tackle-breaks, three line-breaks and three try assists, with the former Tiger and Eel a genuine contender for a NSW jumper.
With his ability to potentially play anywhere from fullback to lock, Reddy’s utility value could serve to plug some gaps should injury strike during the season. But given his competitive nature, expect the new Rabbitoh to cement a spot somewhere in the red and green starting line-up.
For those who didn’t watch the Rabbitiohs NYC 2013, the name Alex Johnston will hardly be familiar, but with the Souths Junior this year graduating to the NRL squad at the age of 19, expect to hear the name a little more often.
A quick and evasive fullback or winger, Johnston is the latest in a long line of talent to come out of Souths Juniors’ La Perouse club. He was a consistent performer for the Rabbitohs’ under 20’s side in 2013, while also being selected to represent NSW in the under 18’s after having previously gained representative honours in the NSW under 16’s and the Australian Schoolboy’s side.
To some, Beau Champion may be a little on the big side for a winger, but his size, speed, kick returns and ability under the high ball make him a perfect contender for the Rabbitoh flank.
While opposition defences continue to search for a way to nullify the kick-returning ability of Greg Inglis, Champion’s own style of returns could serve to further narrow opposition halves’ kicking options.
Champion may have only played eight games in 2013, but that was enough for the Souths Junior to make 14 tackle-breaks and 5 line-breaks. He’ll be looking to make his best impact yet in 2014.