With each coming NRL season comes a new-look squad, a new draw and in some cases, a new coach.
For South Sydney Rabbitohs die-hards and newbies, here is everything you need to know ahead of the 2019 NRL season.
Arrivals: Corey Allan (Brisbane Broncos), Tom Amone (Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles), Cory Denniss (Newcastle Knights), Kurt Dillon (Cronulla Sharks), Rhys Kennedy (North Sydney Bears), Liam Knight (Canberra Raiders), Ethan Lowe (North Queensland Cowboys), Bayley Sironen (Wests Tigers)
Departures: Jesse Arthars (Gold Coast Titans), Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters), Jason Clark (Warrington Wolves), Tyrell Fuimaono (Penrith Panthers), Hymel Hunt (Newcastle Knights), Robert Jennings (Wests Tigers), Richie Kennar (Brisbane Broncos), Vincent Leuluai (North Sydney Bears), Zane Musgrove (Wests Tigers)
A number of changes have been made to the squad in 2019, most notably the departure of Angus Crichton to arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters, as well as favourite son Jason Clark moving to the Super League.
The Club has counter-acted those losses with some strong signings, with young gun Corey Allan and Premiership-winning backrower Ethan Lowe, among first-graders Corey Denniss, Kurt Dillon, Liam Knight and Bayley Sironen along with Rhys Kennedy and Tom Amone who have received deserved call-ups to first-grade after strong seasons in the Canterbury Cup.
The squad boasts plenty of experience, with Club and Queensland Maroons Captain Greg Inglis, England Captain Sam Burgess and Club Legend John Sutton forming a strong leadership triumvirate.
That’s not to forget the likes of Adam Reynolds, Dane Gagai, Alex Johnston, Damien Cook, Cody Walker, George and Thomas Burgess, Kyle Turner and the aforementioned Ethan Lowe forming a strong mix of Premiership-winners and representative players.
A number of the younger contingent such as Adam Doueihi, Campbell Graham, Cameron Murray and Junior Tatola are looking to take the next step to become regular first-graders, while the likes of Connor Tracey, Dean Hawkins, Allan, Denniss, Dillon, Knight, Sironen, Kennedy and Amone looking to break into the top seventeen.
After a top-four finish in 2018, the Cardinal and Myrtle will be looking to go one better to qualify for the Grand Final, and there’s no doubt the squad is more than capable of doing so.
In one of the biggest stories of the pre-season, Wayne Bennett was named as the Club’s Head Coach, which has brought the most successful coach and the most successful Club in Rugby League history together.
If there is anything that Bennett has shown in his 32 years of coaching, it’s how to win - with an impressive 504 wins from 813 matches and a 62% winning record.
Bennett has coached a record seven premierships, six with the Brisbane Broncos and his last with St. George Illawarra Dragons in 2010.
The playing squad have already cited the positive influence Bennett has had on the Club, and it’s hard not to get excited about how he will work his magic for the side on the field.
After the much-publicised coaching swap with Anthony Seibold, there’s no doubt that there will be a lot of eyes on the master coach to see how far he can take a squad including the likes of Inglis, Reynolds, Walker, Cook, Sam Burgess and Dane Gagai to name a few.
The 2019 draw for the Club looks to be as interesting as any in recent seasons.
The Rabbitohs take on four of our biggest rivals in the first six weeks, against the Sydney Roosters (Round 1, SCG), St. George Illawarra Dragons (Round 2, Kogarah), Manly Sea Eagles (Round 4, Brookvale Oval) and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (Round 6, ANZ Stadium, Good Friday).
That’s not to mention that all the aforementioned teams, plus another big rival in the Wests Tigers, will all be played twice, in what is no doubt a highlight for those who love traditional match-ups (don’t we all).
Among the teams played twice will be the Penrith Panthers (Round 7 and 14), New Zealand Warriors (Round 5 and 24), Brisbane Broncos (Round 8 and 23) and North Queensland Cowboys (Round 9 and 18) which will all be blockbusters in their own right.
Seventeen of the 24 regular season matches will be played in Sydney, with four matches in Queensland, one in the nation’s capital, one on the Central Coast and one in New Zealand.
Regarding home games, nine of the twelve allocated home games will be at ANZ Stadium, with an extra reciprocal match against the Bulldogs in Round 6. The remaining home games will be played at Sunshine Coast Stadium (Round 5 vs Warriors), Suncorp Stadium (Round 9 vs Cowboys, Magic Weekend) and at Central Coast Stadium (Round 21 vs Melbourne).
The side will also enjoy two away matches at the brand new Bankwest Stadium against the Parramatta Eels (Round 12) and Tigers (Round 15).
Rabbitohs Members and supporters will be pleased to see that the team will be affected with no five-day turnarounds throughout the season, ensuring that the squad enjoys the best possible recovery period between matches.
There will also be six pre-NRL Canterbury Cup matches, which will make the game-day experience even better in 2019.
For all information on the Canterbury Cup draw, CLICK HERE.
With a strong squad filled to the brim with a mix of experience and youth, a successful head coach, coming off the back of a preliminary-final finish and a draw that will provide a worthy challenge, logically the Rabbitohs should complete a finals finish.
The NRL is one of the closest professional sporting competitions in the world, and with that, there are no guarantees, but it’s fair to say that in 2019, the Rabbitohs have every opportunity to dream and dream big.
Members and supporters, strap yourselves in, because this year is going to be big.