The South Sydney Rabbitohs come into the 2015 NRL season holding a unique combination of major titles, including; NRL Premiers, Auckland Nines champions and World Club Champions among others. If there’s a text-book way to come into a season, it’s with those honours safely in the bag.
But the men in red and green would be the first to admit that all that is well and truly in the past, and will count for nothing come-kick-off this Thursday night in Brisbane.
The Rabbitohs will be without the services of Premiership winners, Sam Burgess and Ben Te’o – both of whom chewed through a hefty workload last season. In their place though come the likes of Glenn Stewart and Tim Grant. But while the two players are vastly different to their predecessors, their inclusion only emphasises the point that the Rabbitohs’ class of 2015 will need to be a different kind of beast. If the World Club Challenge victory on February 22nd is any indication, that transformation is already well in affect.
Twenty four games stand in the way of the Rabbitohs and a berth in the finals, in a season that will see them run out onto their home of ANZ Stadium 11 times in total (both home and away), while also taking home games to Allianz Stadium (round 25), Perth (round 13) and Cairns (round 8).
The Rabbitohs enjoyed a successful trial period, beginning with their first pre-season tournament win since the 1994 Tooheys Challenge, with victory in the second Auckland Nines tournament – going through the tournament undefeated before trumping a determined Cronulla Sharks outfit in golden-try extra-time to lift the trophy.
The 2015 pre-season would prove even more successful though, with the side also managing to take out the 2015 Charity Shield over a near full-strength Dragons outfit, using a team brimming with youth. After being behind on the score-board for much of the match, the Rabbitohs fought back to score a 12-all draw thanks to tries to young-guns Sam Manuleleua and Chris Grevsmuhl.
The youth of the Club continued to be utilised when the Rabbitohs returned to Redfern Oval to fight out an impressive 20-20 draw in the Return to Redfern Clash against the Northern Pride after trailing 20-8 late in the match, with only a smattering of first grade talent available.
The pre-season was capped off in the best possible way, when the men in red and green journeyed to the land of the game’s birth (the UK) to take on the best of the English Super League – St Helens. Despite the Saints being two rounds into their regular season, the Rabbitohs deconstructed the ESL champs by a WCC record margin of 39-0.
Gains and losses
Gains: Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles), Tim Grant (Panthers), Cody Walker (Storm), Angus Crichton (Schoolboys Rugby), Nathan Brown (Wests Tigers).
Losses: Sam Burgess (Rugby Union), Ben Te'o (Rugby Union), Beau Champion (Eels), Apisai Koroisau (Panthers), Nathan Merritt (retired), Luke Burgess (Sea Eagles).
2015 Season Highlights
Round 2 v Roosters – The Rabbitohs return to ANZ Stadium for their first home match of the season against none bitter rivals the Roosters in a Sunday afternoon blockbuster. The two sides last met in the Preliminary Final with Souths defeating the then-defending Premiers to book a place in the decider. There’ll be no love lost this time either. Tickets are now available.
Round 5 v Bulldogs – It’s the Grand Final re-match that will have Sydney in a Good Friday frenzy. The two cross-town rivals will come together for the first time since battling for Premiership glory at the same venue in 2014. Tickets are now available.
Round 8 v Raiders – NRL action returns to Cairns in 2015 when the Rabbitohs take on the Canberra Raiders in an ANZAC weekend blockbuster at Barlow Park. From incredible tries to incredible scenes in the stands, the Rabbitohs’ trip to Cairns is a must-see event. Tickets are now available.
Much has been made in the past of the Melbourne Storm’s ‘spine’; Slater, Cronk and Smith. At the Rabbitohs, a spine that includes the likes of Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and Issac Luke is just one of the many dangers that opposition teams will face in season 2015, and that’s even before mentioning the likes of Luke Keary, Alex Johnston and Dylan Walker – all of whom provide plenty in the way of attacking prowess.
In the forwards, George and Thomas Burgess, along with Dave Tyrrell, shape as one of the biggest front rows in the game. But it’s the Club’s back-row that will have oppositions scratching their heads. With Glenn Stewart and John Sutton set to occupy the second row, a whole new dimension has been added to the Rabbitohs’ attack. Both are players who can sniff out an opportunity, playing as extra five-eighths. Look no further than the World Club Challenge and Return to Redfern performances of both players.