PREVIEW: Rd 1, 2017
Rabbitohs v Tigers
Friday 3 March
Footy is back! Round One will see your Rabbitohs clash with the Wests Tigers in a highly anticipated clash at ANZ Stadium. It's a fixture that has attracted a lot of media attention, however amidst the hype Head Coach Michael Maguire declares his side is focused on doing their job on Friday night.
The clash with the Wests Tigers will be a good test of the new standards at the Rabbitohs after a pre-season which saw a number of staff and players come into the organisation. Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston sums it up as a fresh opportunity for the team.
“We have a clean slate and have all the different staff in and a lot of young boys that have come in and are really pushing us and our senior players and having that depth I think it is really creating something special," said Johnston.
It's a thought echoed by senior Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess although Burgess is wary not to get carried away in the hype.
“We are just concentrating on ourselves, it’s the start of a new season and we are starting on a fresh page," said Burgess.
“You can have as much knowledge as you want but you’ve still got to go out there and defend the plays."
Captain Greg Inglis returns to the fold after a strong off season which has seen the champion fullback taking to the field without his trademark knee strapping - a good sign for Rabbitohs supporters!
Inglis' team will be without playmaker Adam Reynolds, who is recovering from appendicitis, with former Eel Luke Kelly to start alongside Cody Walker in the halves.
George Burgess has been left out of South Sydney's top 17 and named at prop for North Sydney in the Intrust Super Premiership, in a clear sign coach Michael Maguire is not mucking around this season. Zane Musgrove wins the starting spot at prop. Newcastle recruit Robbie Rochow is also set to make his club debut after being named in the original 17.
"George is still progressing and growing from the injury he had but it's about performance in this Club," said Maguire.
"George has looked at his game and he knows the areas he needs to improve on and obviously Zane (Musgrove) and Dave Tyrrell have excelled in these earlier games. Each week we look at who we need to carry and we've gone with those two boy."
For the Wests Tigers, Jamal Idris is set to line up for his first appearance in Tigers colours despite a minor knee injury at training on Monday. Utility back Jordan Rankin will play alongside him with promising rookie Moses Suli named on the wing in Intrust Super Premiership.
Journeyman Matt McIlwrick earns the starting role at hooker with Jason Taylor opting for Matt Ballin to make a comeback and gain some much needed match fitness in the Intrust Super Premiership after being named to come off the bench.
Jason Clark believes the fundamentals will be key to beating the Tigers on Friday.
“It can be a simple game, footy.” Clark explained.
“It’s just about doing our job, what the coach gives us to do and doing it right.
“It’s just to hold that ball, run hard and make our tackles, if you make it too complicated things go a bit wrong sometimes.
SPOTLIGHT: The Forwards
South Sydney were poor in 2016 and a lot of that had to do with their big men, who dropped significantly on statistics in the runs and metres department on previous years to rank third worst in the competition.
That may be hard to believe when you've got the Burgess brothers at the helm, but ultimately they struggled to make any inroads in the oppositions defence and create enough opportunities for the outside backs.
With the return of John Sutton from injury and addition of Rochow, who both have the ability to offload and ball-play, suddenly the Bunnies' pack looks monstrous again.
Farah and interchange hooker Damien Cook will look to feed off the back of the forwards' momentum and get on top of the Tigers pack.
Ryan Carr's squad are coming off a strong performance in the Charity Shield where they racked up a commanding 46-16 victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons. Adam Doueihi is one to watch this Friday playing at five-eighth, the Rugby Union convert was impeccable against the Dragons and has great control on the ball. The first competitive hit-out for a new Rabbitohs U/20s squad will prove an interesting one as the Rabbitohs field one of their strongest line-ups in several years.