There's a New Kid in Town
By round 15 of the 2012 season, the South Sydney Rabbitohs had made their way up the NRL ladder off the back of a new coach and a new look side. The biggest talking point that week, however, was the battle between Parramatta Eels halfback, and former Rabbitoh Chris Sandow, up against Souths rookie Adam Reynolds.
South Sydney Rabbitohs Media and Communications Manager Jeremy Monahan remembers fondly on the build up to the match, and the storylines associated with it.
"There was a lot of talk in the pre-season about who was going to play halfback, whether it was Adam Reynolds or Ryan Carr, who went on to coach here," said Monahan.
"He was actually earmarked to place pressure on Chris Sandow the year before anyway in 2011, but he did his ACL so he missed the whole season after being one of the key factors of taking Souths to the NYC Grand Final in 2010.
"He was a little bit behind the eight-ball there coming off an ACL, but his performances in the pre-season were pretty strong. The 2012 season was Michael Maguire's first year, and he made no promises to either him or Ryan as to who was going to play.
"'Reyno' won the spot and was doing the job without standing out, he was only a young bloke at 21 but there was a lot of talk about Chris Sandow coming up against the Club. Obviously Chris had left the Club on a big money deal to Parramatta and it was the former crowd favourite at the Rabbitohs against the new young hope, so that was all the talk in the lead-up.
"They were both goal kickers and cheeky little halfbacks and had both gone to the hearts of Souths Members and supporters but it was a chance for 'Reyno' to prove he deserved his spot."
Souths held a 12-point lead with just over ten minutes left, and were back on the attack just ten metres from the tryline and were looking to put the game to bed. Greg Inglis was primed to take advantage of an overlap on the left, but just as he threw the pass to his centre, the ball was intercepted by Sandow, who bolted downfield, just as he had done previously in Red and Green the year before.
"I remember him taking off and I thought 'He's going to score here, it's going to be a close finish'," Monahan said.
"Chris pinned his ears back and his little legs were pumping, but there were another set of little legs coming across-field. I thought 'He won't be able to catch him here', because he had to run on that angle from the outside and had to cover more ground.
"But he just kept on making a little bit of ground, and as he was over halfway and getting towards the corner we saw 'Reyno' coming across and we just thought 'He's going to get him here! He's going to get him!' and then bang. He hit Sandow just before the line and put him into touch."
The moment goes down as one of the biggest catalysts of the 2012 season, but Monahan looks back and remembers much more than just the chase and the tackle.
"For me the most memorable part of it was when Chrissy was on the ground and 'Reyno' jumped up right in front of The Burrow where he made the tackle and started hitting the rabbit on his chest," he said.
"You just knew this was the kid who was going to take us to where we wanted to get to, and obviously he did in 2014.
"The next thing I remember was looking at the big screen and seeing a full picture of Chris Sandow laughing. He could tell it was the storyline of the ex-Rabbitoh getting taken down by the current Rabbitoh. It was a great moment.
"It showed the personality of both of them, the passion Adam Reynolds has, having grown up as a local kid, and pulling off the big play. And then Chris Sandow being the former Rabbitoh, knowing what it would have meant for Adam and the supporters. I think he would have liked to have scored the try but I don't think he was too filthy with the result," he laughed.
From that moment the only way for Reynolds and the Rabbitohs was up. The side finished in the top four that season, and on the way personally handed the Eels the wooden spoon in round 25 with a 38-6 drubbing. Reynolds produced plenty of memorable moments too; kicking the winning field goal at Kogarah and sinking the Sydney Roosters in that glorious last-minute victory in round 19, but it was at that moment Reynolds had announced himself into the first grade arena.
"I think it gave him a lot of confidence. I think was a big step for him to know that he could pull off a big play," said Monahan.
"There's not a lot of guys that can pull off something like that. There are a lot of players that are big on effort areas, which is something that Anthony Seibold has really instilled with his pressure and efforts.
"But to pull off those big plays, only a special kind of player can do that, and it was a special play. He had to run a long way and was coming off a serious knee injury the year before, he wouldn't have been at full pace."
With a glint in his eyes, Jeremy sums up the moment in a single line.
"There were just four little legs on two blokes charging up field, but the ones with the Red and Green socks on won the race that day."
Match Report supplied by Michael Curin
The Rabbitohs scored four tries to one as they consolidated a spot in the top eight with their 24-6 victory over the Eels, while Parramatta remains last after falling to its ninth defeat in 11 games. Greg Inglis backing up from Wednesday's second state of origin game, the Queensland star strained a medial ligament in his elbow midway through the first half and had a bandage applied. But it didn't stop the mercurial full-back throwing a sensational pass to winger Justin Hunt for the Rabbitohs' second try in the 29th minute.
Returning for the second half, Inglis threw a more conventional pass to Dylan Farrell for the Rabbitohs' third try in the 42nd minute. Inglis also produced a couple of big defensive plays in the wet and slippery conditions, including a vital tackle to deny Matthew Keating a try and defusing a bomb with aplomb. While Inglis shone, Parramatta's primary game-breakers - full-back Jarryd Hayne and former South Sydney half-back Chris Sandow - were unable to spark their side. In the battle of the No. 7s, Sandow was outpointed by his successor Adam Reynolds, who set up South Sydney's first try with a perfectly weighted chip kick to winger Nathan Merritt.
Reynolds won the most significant head-to-head duel between the two in the 68th minute, when he showed great pace and tenacity to deny Sandow a try. The former Souths man took an intercept about 80 metres out and looked certain to score until Reynolds caught him and shoved him over the sideline just short of the Souths line. Reynolds kicked two terrific first-half conversions from near the side line and finished with four from four. Parramatta's only points came in the 58th minute through a try to Reni Maitua, converted by winger Luke Burt. It couldn't get any closer, and veteran lock Michael Crocker sealed the win when he crashed over Sandow for the game's final try in the 76th minute.
Souths coach Michael Maguire paid tribute to the inspirational efforts of both Inglis and Reynolds, and the team's defensive effort. "We talk about Renno's (Reynolds) try-saving tackle but Greg did a try saver there and contributed a hell of a lot throughout that game, even though he had that little elbow problem," Maguire said. "They taped it up so he couldn't move his arm and he was sort of playing with one arm there at one stage."
Reynolds said he still looked up to Sandow and joked with him about his try-saver after the match. "It's a bit funny because I got caught by Ben Hannant the other week, so I think I've got that tag off me hopefully," Reynolds said. Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney said Sandow had a quiet game and he was very disappointed with his side over the first half of the season. "I thought we certainly got taught a lesson tonight playing wet weather footy.
I thought South Sydney were extremely good in that department," Kearney said. Asked if he was worrying about his job security after the loss, Kearney said: "I can't, my focus is on dealing with what I've got in front of me."
South Sydney 24 (N.Merritt, J.Hunt, D.Farrell, M.Crocker tries; A.Reynolds 4 goals)
Parramatta 6 (R.Maitua try; L.Burt goal)