2018 is upon us! With under 50 sleeps left until the Rabbitohs’ first trial match of the year, excitement is in the air. There are also plenty of questions to be asked.
Which rookies will make their mark? Who will reach new milestones? How will the new signings go? What can we look forward to?
All those questions - and more - will be answered during the year, so here are our pick of 10 things to look forward to in 2018.
GI’s return in Mudgee for the Charity Shield
It’s felt like forever since we saw Greg Inglis take the field, but luckily for Rabbitohs and Rugby League fans alike, the big man will don the famous Cardinal and Myrtle in Mudgee for the 35th annual Charity Shield.
After recovering from the torn ACL he sustained in Round 1 of the 2017 season, many will be hoping to see a rampaging GI in full flight and back to his best for the Rabbitohs’ 110th year.
There’s no doubt either that the man himself will be chomping at the bit to get on the field and do some damage.
Challenging international opposition in Wigan Warriors
It’s not every day you get to take on take on a side from halfway across the globe, but come February 17, we’ll be testing ourselves against one of England’s finest in a Double Header at ANZ Stadium.
The Wigan Warriors will be the fourth Super League club looking to topple the Rabbitohs, after previously facing Leeds, Warrington and St Helens. While there aren’t any competition points up for grabs, there will be pride on the line, especially with the grand traditions that both Clubs hold.
There will be some high-octane match-ups on the field as well, and there’s no doubt the Burgess brothers will be looking to put on a show against some familiar faces, including former Rabbitohs Joe Burgess and Gabe Hamlin.
Opening the new Perth Stadium in a Double Header
What a way to officially kick off the season than to be the first team to walk out at the brand new Perth Stadium, in a high-profile Double Header?
The state-of-the-art arena is expected to sold out as we take on the New Zealand Warriors before the Bulldogs take on the Storm in what will be a blockbuster start to the year.
The Warriors are yet to record a win in Perth, which includes three of our victories against them in recent years, so there will be more motivation than usual for our boys to take the two points in the west.
The Arrival of Dane Gagai
It won’t only be the return of GI that will bolster the outside backs, but he’ll have his partner in crime Dane Gagai alongside him for the first time since the 2016 Holden State of Origin series.
After winning the Wally Lewis Medal for player of the 2017 series, as well as being the only winger to have ever received the award, Gagai arrives at the Rabbitohs much to the excitement of Red and Green supporters everywhere.
Capable of playing anywhere in the outside backs, Gagai’s utility and strike will no doubt have a positive effect on the up and coming Rabbitohs backline.
The Good Friday clash
One of the biggest games of the year comes within the first few rounds of the season, which is of course the Good Friday clash against the Bulldogs.
While the last couple of years have had lean results, no one can forget the ‘Bad Friday’ encounter in 2015 that saw the Red and Greens snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, with former Bulldog Bryson Goodwin nailing a penalty goal to sink the ‘Berries.
You don’t have to look much further back to remember some other classic matches, such as the 2012 victory that saw Andrew Everingham bag an extraordinary double, and the 2013 skirmish where Ben Barba’s return from suspension was crashed by a rampaging Rabbitohs outfit.
Expect plenty of fireworks in the Round 4 clash this year too.
Going head-to-head with the Roosters
Expect plenty of fireworks in the Round 4 clash this year too. There’s no opposition we love to hate more than the ‘Sydney’ Roosters.
In 1908, when we defeated them in the first ever NSWRL Grand Final, the greatest rivalry in Rugby League was born. That rivalry has only flared up in recent years after their constant poaching of talent as opposed to the development that we pride ourselves on.
We take on our neighbours in Round 6 at Allianz Stadium in the first leg of the Ron Coote Cup, and then in Round 22 where we host them at ANZ Stadium. No matter our respective positions on the ladder, sparks will fly in each and every contest.
Young Guns making the leap
In 2017 we saw the likes of Tyrell Fuimaono, Cameron Murray and Campbell Graham make their first grade debuts, all of whom became regulars in the top 17 by the end of the season.
With a plethora of rookies in the 2018 squad, such as Sam Johnstone, Mawene Hiroti, Lucky Ta’avale, Jesse Arthars and Adam Doueihi, plenty of eyes will be on the next crop of Rabbitohs to make their much anticipated NRL debuts for the club.
With only a handful of positions locked down in the top 17, don’t be surprised if some of these rookies take their chance with two hands and make their position their own in the coming season.
Launch of NRL Women’s League
A new era of rugby league begins with the women’s competition featuring up to six teams associated with NRL clubs.
There have been plenty of calls for a women’s competition in recent years, and after such a successful Women’s Rugby League World Cup, the NRL has finally given the green light for a women’s competition to begin in 2018.
With so many talented players turning out for the Redfern All Blacks, such as Maddie Studdon and Nakia Davis-Welsh, could we see a women’s side in Rabbitohs colours? Watch this space.
Physical Disability team to challenge all comers
Another historic event could be on the cards in 2018.
The Rabbitohs Physical Disability team, who were victorious in the NSW Physical Disability competition in 2016, may face a new challenge from further afield next year.
Over in the UK, the first Physical Disability teams are in the process of being set up. Led by a Rabbitohs Member, the television presenter and comedian Adam Hills, the Warrington Wolves have their eye on an international challenge match with South Sydney.
Hills, who now lives in England and wears a prosthetic foot, will take the field for Warrington for their exhibition matches in 2018. But where will his allegiances lie if a clash against the Rabbitohs gets the green light?
Playing in the NRL is certainly an accomplishment in itself, but there are plenty of milestones for both players and fans alike to look forward to in 2018.
Halfback Adam Reynolds needs just three points to reach the 1000-point mark, which would make him the 51st player in NRL history to do so.
Captain Greg Inglis needs eight appearances to hit 250 NRL career games and 12 tries to reach 150 and on a Club-level, John Sutton needs 19 appearances to become the first ever Rabbitoh to play 300 first grade games.