With the 2016 season at an end for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, we take a look at the year that was, providing an overview of the highs and lows that occurred throughout the 26 week period.
Coming off the back of a pre-season period that saw the addition of Damien Cook, Hymel Hunt and Sam Burgess to the playing roster, the South Sydney Rabbitohs commenced their season in emphatic fashion.
Dominant wins in the opening two rounds of the season against the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle Knights saw the Red and Greens touted as potential contenders in 2016.
Coming into a torrential Round 3 clash with the St George Illawarra Dragons at the SCG - The Rabbitohs lost out in a tight contest in emotionally draining conditions as Sam Burgess suffered what at the time was considered a serious neck injury.
The Rabbitohs rallied around Sam Burgess in the following week as he recovered and took to the field against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and through inspiration defence inspired off the back of a McInnes double managed to beat the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval/
Undoubtedly, however, mounting injuries contributed significantly to the woes endured by the Rabbitohs throughout the season as the side struggled to form key combinations, resulting in a failure to play consistent 80 minute football on a regular basis.
Although a substantial number of key players spent time on the sideline at stages of the year, there were also a number of positives that came as a result of this misfortune – namely, the emergence of Cody Walker.
After biding his time in reserve grade, Walker enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, with the utility back making the most of the vacancies that occurred as a result of injury to cement his spot in Michael Maguire’s top 17.
The Casino Cougars junior was a stand out for the Red and Greens, playing 20 games and scoring 8 tries at fullback and five-eighth whilst also topping his side’s statistics for try assists (12), tackle breaks (80) and line breaks (15).
In addition to Walker’s contribution, Sam Burgess was also instrumental for the Rabbitohs in his first season back in the NRL.
Frequently amongst his side’s best performers, the English international completed 399 runs during the season (3rd most in the NRL) in addition to his 803 tackles, 49 offloads and 3521 metres run – all of which were season bests for the Red and Greens.
On a team front, the Rabbitohs excelled defensively, making 8442 tackles (highest in the NRL) whilst only missing 625 tackles (5th best in the NRL).
This strong defensive showing was especially evident at the backend of the season, as South Sydney concluded 2016 with wins over the New Zealand Warriors, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Newcastle Knights and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
The four consecutive wins – two of which were against finals bound sides – created significant buzz around the playing group and provided a strong foundation leading into season 2017 – something echoed by Head Coach, Michael Maguire.
“I’m really happy about where we’re going. I’m really happy about where we are heading into the pre-season.”
Maguire was also impressed by the likes of Angus Crichton, Jack Gosiewski and Zane Musgrove, who featured in the cardinal and myrtle at stages of the 2016 season.
“The younger guys that debuted showed some great form,” said Maguire.
“The development of the younger kids growing inside the many experiences we had this season and to see them come together the way they did – I’m really excited about what’s ahead,”
In addition to the emergence of the next generation of Rabbitohs, the signings of back-rower, Robbie Rochow and young-guns Robert Jennings, Tyrell Fuimaono, Braidon Burns and Connor Tracey will also provide a boost for the Red and Greens heading into next season.
All Runs: 3945
Metres Gamed: 35171
Line Breaks: 98
Try Assists: 59
Missed Tackles: 625