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Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire isn’t one to give his team a mark out of 100 – there’s just too much footy left to be played – but after just over half a season’s worth of football, the man holding the reins at South Sydney gives his views on the Club’s progress in 2014 in his Half Yearly Report Card.
With the luxury of the bye this week (round 15), the Rabbitohs find themselves in third position on the competition ladder on 18 points, with nine wins, five losses and a points differential of 118.
The Rabbitohs have scored the most points out of any of the 16 NRL Clubs (327), and have the second best defence in the competition, having conceded only 209 – second only to the first placed Penrith Panthers (204).
For the Rabbitohs mentor, the first half of season 2014 has had its ups and downs, but the ‘one week at a time’ ethos is still very much in place as the side prepares to take on the Cowboys in Townsville in round 16.
“It’s been a bit of ride this year,” admitted Maguire.
“We didn’t start well and weren’t quite playing to our potential early on. But I feel like we’re getting back to that now and there’s still plenty to improve on through to the back end of the season.
“Our next focus is North Queensland, and only then can we look to the next week – there are still plenty of mental and physical challenges ahead.”
After opening their 2014 campaign with victory over defending premiers, the Roosters, the men in red and green slumped to three consecutive losses against the Sea Eagles, Tigers and Raiders. But the Rabbitohs remained composed – beating the Dragons at the SCG in fine style before putting in a record defensive effort against the Panthers to win at the foot of the mountains.
Maguire has been particularly pleased with his side’s defence in 2014 – a pleasing result considering it was his current crop of Rabbitohs who set the defensive standard for themselves, way back in December of last year.
“I think we’re defending better,” said Madge.
“That’s something that as a group we identified that we want to improve on, way back at Christmas time. It’s great that we’re achieving that, but in saying that, our next games will be the telling factor.
“We’ve put ourselves in a reasonable spot at the moment off the back of that effort, but we need to; keep building on that defence, look at how we can improve our attack as well, and make sure everyone is putting in consistent 80 minute performances – these are the things that will be telling points at the back end of the season.”
The Rabbitohs have also shown plenty of resilience in recent weeks, having overcome mounting injury tolls against the New Zealand Warriors and Wests Tigers in consecutive weeks to record convincing victories – Maguire putting the wins down to his team’s strong character.
“The last month, the character of us as a team is really starting to come out, which is great,” said Madge.
“We’ve obviously been challenged in a number of games and we’ve had to fight our way out of it. But we need to continually look at areas of our game and be really meticulous about how we assess our performances and how we can build on them. If we can do that, we’ll be setting ourselves up for a good back end of the season.
“That character has been the making of this team this year I believe. From those times where things aren’t quite working out for you, you tend to grow and build your way out of it, and by getting better performances now – even though we know we have plenty more left in us – we do become stronger, and closer.”
Maguire has also been pleased with the efforts of his five 2014 debutants; Kyle Turner, Apisai Koroisau, Alex Johnston, Kirisome Auva’a and Cameron McInnes – as much for their mature and seasoned performances, as for the enthusiasm they have brought to the side.
“Those boys have all earned their spots and really come in and stepped up,” said Madge.
“Their enthusiasm has rubbed off on the squad. They’re part of the reason why we’ve got so much motivation and so many reasons to play well, and that makes it easy for us to come in and want to perform every day.
“What I can say is that we have a special group of people here at the moment, and it’s up to us, as to where we can take that.”
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