Position Battles - Outside backs
In this edition of our Position Battles series, we look to see the candidates for the rest of the backline. Head coach Anthony Seibold will have a nice headache with so many options on his hands, with a mixture of youth, experience and new talent looking to add size and speed to the outside backs.
Braidon Burns will be looking to lock down a position in the backline in his second year at the Club. The 21-year-old bagged four tries in his 10 games of first grade in 2017, a tally which no doubt will grow with more matches under his belt, especially after overcoming season ending knee surgery.
Burns has told Rabbitohs.com.au that he has hopes for making a home in the Centres, but that competition for the spot is fierce.
Playing all across the park in his debut season, Tyrell Fuimaono eventually found himself in the centres for the back end of the year, forming a strong combination on the left with Robert Jennings.
Fuimaono brings a power game and aggression to the outside backs that is needed just as much as speed and finesse is. Having also featured in the back row in 2017, the versatile youngster is an option at both positions.
Although he is among the youngest players in the competition, Campbell Graham showed maturity and composure beyond his years at the back end of last season. After working hard throughout the pre-season in the gym, look out for him to improve on his five game tally for the Red and Green.
His preference is in the centres, and he has played representative football at the position for the Australian Schoolboys, but has so far only played on the wing in the first grade. Another versatile youngster, you can expect even better things from this boom rookie.
Despite an injury-disrupted season in 2017, Hymel Hunt has proven to be a strong option in the centres in his two seasons at the Club, particularly in defence.
His raw aggression and physicality has produced massive hits that rattle the opposition, and he will be determined to regain his starting centre spot and string together a consistent season. He is also an option on the wing.
Greg Inglis is still considered by many as the best centre in the game and, although he has turned out for the Red and Green at fullback, there is no arguing that GI is a world class centre.
Playing Inglis in the centres is certainly an option for Head Coach Anthony Seibold, as Alex Johnston proved in 2017 that he is more than capable of holding a spot at fullback.
Not to mention the thought of GI and his Queensland teammate Dane Gagai in the centres is a prospect that very well could be one of the best centre combinations in the league.
Despite being moved between the centres and on the wing at different points of the season, Robert Jennings certainly found his feet in first grade by the end of the season, appropriately finishing his year with two tries, 117 running metres and two linebreaks.
After forging a partnership with childhood mate Tyrell Fuimaono on the left-hand side of the field late in the season, Jennings will be pushing for a spot in the Rabbitohs backline from the get-go.
We all know of AJ’s blistering speed and his try-scoring prowess, but the 22-year old also brings a professionalism about him that not many others in the NRL can match.
After his first full season at fullback, the experience will no doubt help his development as a player. Look out for AJ to continue to add to his 71 tries in 2018.
After starting his career off in the centres, and scoring a try on debut, 2017 was a transitional year for Siosifa Talakai. He eventually made his way into the backrow in a successful stint for the Rabbitohs’ NYC side.
One of the most explosive players in the Rabbitohs’ squad, ‘Sifa’ provides power on the edges and has a high work ethic to boot.
No one can doubt the talent of new recruit Dane Gagai, but the question over him is whether he features in the centres, on the wing or at fullback.
Not only is Gagai versatile, but he brings speed, power and awareness that only the best in the business can bring, and the Wally Lewis Medal winner and recent World Cup champion will add strike power that will certainly add some more punch to the Rabbitohs’ backline, regardless of where he lines up.
New signing Jacob Gagan also arrives at the Club looking for a fresh start, and could prove to be a surprise addition to the outside backs after setting the NSW Cup alight throughout the past few seasons.
Able to play centre and wing, Gagan’s versatility will prove to be valuable, particularly around the Holden State of Origin period, and if injuries strike.
Richard Kennar will be looking to add some size and aggression to the Rabbitohs’ backline after stints with the Storm and Bulldogs, where he proved to be quite a handful for opposition defences.
After impressing at training with his high work ethic and robust style of play, Rabbitohs General Manager of Football Shane Richardson believes Kennar will be in the first grade backline sooner rather than later.
Another Kiwi, Jesse Arthars, has been praised often by the coaching staff since arriving at the Club from Melbourne, and despite being eligible for the under-20’s this season, he will be looking to start his season in the higher grades at the Bears and Rabbitohs.
While he is primarily a fullback, he is equally comfortable in the centres and on the wing and has all the makings of a first grade outside back.
Young half Adam Doueihi not only proved he has the credentials to make the next step in his career during the Rugby League World Cup, but he also showed that he possesses variety and versatility to his game, filling in at centre in all of Lebanon’s matches.
Having spent time at five-eighth and fullback throughout 2017, Adam is a player on the brink of first grade selection, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see this young gun in the first grade team at some point in 2018.
Blessed with genuine pace, Mawene Hiroti has received plenty of praise from critics near and far, including teammate Alex Johnston.
The Kiwi product has been burning the turf with the Rabbitohs through the lower grades, and has his eyes set on a first grade debut for 2018. Hiroti is capable of playing adeptly in the centres and on the wing.
Tyrone Taukamo stuck true to his Red and Green roots when he joined the Rabbitohs’ under 20s squad in 2017 and has been progressing strongly ever since.
Despite playing on the wing through his first season of under-20s, the teenager is his most destructive in the centres, notorious for his power game which has seen plenty of opponents helpless on the ground.