With trial matches and the 2015 Telstra Premiership fast approaching, it’s time to start asking the big positional questions. Today, it’s all about the wingers.
From Harold Horder to Benny Wearing and Terry Fahey to Nathan Merritt, South Sydney has produced some brilliant wingers since 1908, and now with the 2015 number two and five jumpers well and truly on the line, we dissect all the contenders who are ready and willing to take on the role.
After a debut season that saw him become the Club’s top try-scorer in just 18 games, the John Sattler Rookie of the Year and Australian squad member will be hard to beat for a spot on the Rabbitohs flank.
Johnston’s meteoric rise from the NYC to Kangaroo squad selection in less than a year excited the Rabbitohs faithful everywhere and is another nod to the great rugby league nursery that is Souths Juniors. With demon speed, a lethal step and safety under the high ball, the La Perouse product finished off his 2014 campaign with a Premiership ring and the honour of having scored the first try of the Grand Final against the Bulldogs.
Johnston averaged 104.4 metres per match with the ball in hand in his debut season, made 35 tackle breaks, 21 line breaks, six offloads and two try-assists.
With a combination of enthusiasm and experience, Bryson Goodwin is an asset to the Rabbitohs backline whether he be in the centres or on the wing.
A veteran of 10 Tests for New Zealand and 115 first grade games (38 for the Rabbitohs), Goodwin will be looking to cement his spot in Michael Maguire’s starting squad, after having played only 13 matches in 2014. Despite that, Goodwin still managed to score three tries and four goals in those appearances for a total of 20 points. He’ll be out to impress in 2015.
Also, as one of a handful of kickers in the squad, Goodwin’s ability with the boot has and could be handy as a back-up to Adam Reynolds when required.
When it comes to utility value, few players have the versatility of Joel Reddy. Despite being more commonly known as a centre, Reddy has the ability to play a range of positions across both the forwards and backs – even playing at lock at times in his career.
During the 2014 season, Reddy played six matches in both the centres and on the wing, picking up five tries in the process – two of which were scored against his old club the Wests Tigers in round three. Despite limited games, Reddy managed to make 10 tackle breaks, four line breaks and five offloads. With the 2013 City Origin star looking to cement a spot in Madge’s 2015 side, a spot on the flanks could be on the cards.
Sam Manuleleua may not be a familiar name unless you followed the fortunes of the Rabbitohs’ 2014 NYC squad, but if his performances in Ben Gardiner’s side are anything to go by, the Samoan-born flyer could be a chance of a starting spot hard work.
Standing at 190cm tall and weighing 101kg, Manuleleua made an instant impact for the NYC in 2014, scoring a double in his first game with the side in Gosford against Manly in round two. The speedster went on to play 13 games, scoring nine tries in total, before capping off his 2014 season with selection and a try in the Junior Kiwis’ Test against the Junior Kangaroos.
After a number of seasons in the Bulldogs’ lower grades, Ed Murphy arrives at the Rabbitohs in 2015 in the hope of securing a first grade debut.
A solid winger or centre, Murphy represented his state in 2012 when he was selected in the NSW under 20’s side to play Queensland. With a still unfolding regimen of pre-season training under Michael Maguire, Murphy is in the mix.
Setefano Taukafa joins the Rabbitohs in 2015 after a number of seasons in the Wests Tigers' system, including an outstanding 2011 season in the club’s NYC side. The Tongan then embarked on a two-year Mormon Mission before returning to Wests and playing NSW Cup in 2014.
A strong carrier of the ball, and also blessed with a fantastic ability to leap and contest for the pill in the air, Taukafa will be pushing for his first grade debut in 2015.
Able to cover virtually any position in the back-line, Walker began the 2014 season at five-eighth before finding his place in the centres. His 2014 season prompted Kangaroos Coach, Tim Sheens to select the Rabbitoh in the Australian centres – the young-gun now boasting four Tests to his name.
Walker ran for 2872 metres from 279 carries, breaking the line on 14 occasions, scoring 12 tries and breaking a massive 83 tackles on his way to a possible green and gold jumper.
Aaron Gray will be working hard to force his way into a backline position with the Rabbitohs in 2015, after an injury hit 2014. You can bet that he’ll be hungry.
A South Sydney junior from the Mascot Jets, Gray rose to the ranks of the NYC where he played 41 games, scoring 166 points mostly playing in the centres. Gray was rewarded for his good form in 2014 with selection in the NSW under 20’s side where he performed solidly. This could well be his year to crack the top grade.