With the trial period now upon us and the 2016 Telstra Premiership fast approaching, it’s time to start asking the big positional questions.
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, it’s all about the number one jersey – the fullbacks.
A number of talented Rabbitohs have the potential to fill the custodian position, with Club Captain, Greg Inglis among them – the Test, Origin and Indigenous All Star representative having made the position his own over the last few seasons despite being previously named Dally M Centre of the Year and having won a Clive Churchill Medal playing at five-eighth.
Other players in contention who are capable of filling the position include, Alex Johnston, as well as Damien Cook.
Rabbitohs Head Coach, Michael Maguire, will have a number of opportunities to see his men in action ahead of the start of the season proper, after getting a sneak peek at the weekend’s Auckland Nines tournament.
Maguire will be spoilt for choice this Saturday with two games – the Charity Shield against the Dragons at ANZ Stadium, as well as the All Stars clash in Queensland that will immediately follow.
The final opportunity comes on Saturday 20th February when the Rabbitohs venture to the Gold Coast to take on the Titans at Pizzey Park.
When it comes to the fullback spot, here are the men who will be vying for the position.
With the benefit of a full off-season to rest and revitalise thanks to the inactivity of the Australian team, Greg Inglis is primed for a big year in 2016.
GI has become synonymous with the Club’s number one jumper since making the move to the back permanently in 2012, going on to play in that position at both Origin and Test level while also helping the Club to Premiership glory in 2014 wearing the number one jersey.
Standing 195cm tall and weighing 105kg, Inglis would hardly look out of place in the Rabbitohs forward-pack were it not for his freakish agility and turn of pace. As a result, in 2015, GI led the way in terms of tackle breaks for the Club, with 73 tackle breaks while also breaking the line on 12 occasions.
Inglis would appear in 20 matches for the red and greens in 2015, while also playing an integral role in Queensland recapturing the State of Origin trophy, scoring vital four-pointers for the Maroons in the process.
Inglis scored eight tries while running for a total of 2910 metres with the ball in hand in last season. But his ability to set up four-pointers was equally impressive, topping the team in terms of try-assists with 13 – four more than anyone else in the side.
The Club’s top try-scorer for two years running, Alex Johnston cemented his place in the Rabbitohs first grade team in 2014 and 2015, as well as earning himself Test selection playing on the wing. But Johnston is far from just a fast-finishing winger.
A proud product of the Souths Juniors Rugby League nursery, Johnston has previously been a viable option at fullback in the absence of Inglis thanks to his safety under the high-ball, ability to leap, and his freakish speed.
Johnston’s 68 points for season 2015 was only bested by the goal-kicking genius that is Adam Reynolds, with Reynolds top-scoring for the side with 111 points. But it wasn’t just points that Johnston would contribute to the Rabbitohs’ season.
In total, Johnston appeared in 25 matches, racking up a total of 2448 metres off 247 runs, while breaking the defensive line on 21 occasions and offloading 13 times.
Cook may be primarily eyeing off the Club’s hooking role, but his unique versatility means the former Bulldog and Dragon wouldn’t feel out of place at fullback – a position he has occupied previously.
With a combination of speed, agility, unpredictability and ball-playing skills, Cook made his presence felt for the Rabbitohs at the Auckland Nines tournament over the weekend after plying his trade for the Bulldogs in 2015, playing primarily out of dummy-half. But his skills are transferrable, making Cook a viable custodian option.
Season 2015 saw Cook appear in 16 matches for the Bulldogs, scoring four tries, amassing 210 metres from 30 runs and making 248 tackles.