2018 - A Year of Milestones

What a year 2018 was.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs celebrated the Clubs' 110th year, which saw a plethora of milestones achieved and records broken.

Once again the Club paved the way for growth and expansion in Rugby League - participating in the World Club Series against the Wigan Warriors and proving their capabilities, as a side filled with first-grade contenders defeated the eventual Super League premiers 18-8. The 35th Charity Shield was held in Mudgee, the first country town to host the event, which eventuated in the Red and Green retaining the title for a record sixth year in a row.

And with a new season came a new coach with a new approach - former assistant Anthony Seibold became the Club's 32nd caretaker, revolutionising the side's style of play to become an attacking force. Representative centre Dane Gagai joined the Club along with stalwart prop Mark Nicholls as the new faces in the squad, along with a host of up and coming talent.

Our opening round proved historic for plenty of reasons, despite being a loss - captain Greg Inglis made his much-awaited return from injury after a year on the sidelines, Souths became the first team to host a match at the brand-new Perth Stadium, Damien Cook notched up 50 NRL matches and Adam Reynolds kicked his way to 1000 first-grade points.

More milestones were to come in the Club's 110th year, with the Round 6 victory against the Sydney Roosters marking Cody Walker's 50th NRL game and Jason Clark's 150th match in Cardinal and Myrtle.

Against the Brisbane Broncos two weeks later, Inglis reached 250 NRL games, while Thomas Burgess reached his century of matches as well. On the Gold Coast in Round 14, the side celebrated Sam Burgess' 150th match with a tight 18-16 victory.

But wait, take a big breath because there's more!

The biggest milestone of all belonged to John Sutton, who further etched his name in South Sydney folklore, becoming the first player to make 300 first grade appearances for the Club. Centre Dane Gagai also celebrated his 150th NRL match on the night, and a week later it was Adam Reynolds (150 games) and Alex Johnston (100 games) to notch up their own personal milestones for the Club as they defeated the Parramatta Eels.

It wasn't just the NRL side making history, though, as the Club announced their first-ever Women's side, who played their first match at Redfern Oval in a 54-4 demolition to open their Harvey Norman Women's Premiership account. Eventually, they took out the Minor Premiership, narrowly losing the Grand Final in what was a historic first season.

A nine-game winning streak - the first time since 1989 - occurred during Rounds 9 until 18, which began with an entertaining 36-18 win against the Newcastle Knights in the Hunter.

The side then dominated the St. George Illawarra Dragons in a then-top of the table matchup in Indigenous Round, setting them on course to further victories against the North Queensland Cowboys in a last-second nail-biter, as well as a successful trip across the Tasman against the New Zealand Warriors.

June was a memorable month as the side took down a highly-favoured Cronulla Sharks outfit, dismantled the Gold Coast Titans, Parramatta Eels, and the Cowboys in another one-point match as well as earning their second win the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

Hooker Damien Cook firmed himself as one of the most improved players in the competition, earning himself a NSW call-up to State of Origin, helping spearhead the Blues to their first series win since 2014.

He wasn't the only one to make history in the Origin arena, however, as Inglis earned his second captaincy role for his beloved Maroons, who was also joined by Dane Gagai.

The Club also recorded its fifth win against the reigning premiers, Melbourne Storm in Round 21, which was also their first since 2013. In one of the most courageous performances of the season, the Rabbitohs recovered from a 6-16 deficit to record a famous 30-20 victory, proving they could match it with the best.

The regular season was finished in style, bouncing back from a three-game losing streak to demolish the Tigers 51-10 in a convincing victory that saw them record the most metres in an NRL match, as well as the biggest metre discrepancy of metres in a match.

Seibold's side also finished the regular season as the best-attacking unit, with the most points (627), tries (104), linebreaks (132), run metres (43, 146), line break assists (92). The new head coach was duly awarded the Dally M Coach of the Year, the second Souths coach behind George Piggins who won the award in 1989.

It was the first time since 2015 the Club had reached the finals, and the first top-four finish since 2014, and in their first week of finals, the side produced an absolute thriller of a game, despite narrowly going down to the Storm in Melbourne by a single point.

No doubt one of the games of the year was the Club's final victory, which was a one-point thriller against the Dragons in the second week of finals. Adam Reynolds was the hero on the day, scoring all his side's points with a try, three goals and three field goals, becoming the first player since Neil Baker in 1986 to kick three one-pointers in a game.

So, what now for 2019? Well, there is plenty more to look forward to.

Our 110th season uncovered some absolute gems - young guns Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham, Adam Doueihi and Junior Tatola have all firmed themselves as enthusiastic and exciting prospects for the future, and there's no reason to believe why they won't continue to improve.

Winger Robert Jennings topped the Club's try-scoring charts on the end of a deadly backline including Inglis, Gagai and a renewed Alex Johnston at fullback.

The Burgess trio all had memorable seasons, earning call-ups to the England national side, while John Sutton wound back the clock with some inspiring performances. Departing Jason Clark was reliable as ever, and halves Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds' combinations continue to grow as one of the best pairings in the competition.

Damien Cook was no doubt the standout player, earning himself representative calls to NSW and Australia, while also taking out the Dally M Hooker of the Year award, as well as the George Piggins Medal as the Club's player of the year.

Let's not forget incoming junior rep Corey Allan, who has already impressed with his post-season appearances for the Junior Kangaroos and the PM's XIII respectively.

There's also the new Rabbitohs Pathways, with an ISP side and Jersey Flegg team that will see more Red and Green jerseys on the field than ever, showcasing the next Rabbitohs legends in waiting. Having more Souths teams to follow can never be a bad thing.

A new-look draw is also on the cards, which will see the Club play matches in brand-new territory, and of course re-living some rivalries with plenty of big matchups.

So with that said; here's to 2018 - a memorable year of milestones and to 2019, with hopefully a 22nd one to come.

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