With representative round underway this weekend, what better way to look back at what 2019 has brought than to sit down with us to review the season thus far.
Where We Stand
The South Sydney Rabbitohs are riding high in second place on the NRL ladder, having won ten matches with four losses - how good!
The side started off the season strongly winning the first three matches against the Roosters, Dragons and Titans before a deflating golden point loss to the Sea Eagles in round four.
Not to be deterred, the Red and Green went on an impressive seven-match winning streak, which included an incredible comeback victory against the Warriors which saw Cody Walker stroll his way to four tries on the Sunshine Coast, a big win against the Broncos filled with Goanna celebrations and a close shave down in a frozen Canberra night - which no doubt saw a national rise in blood pressure.
With a number of injuries and Origin omissions not helping their cause, the side has suffered defeats to the Eels, Knights and Panthers which let's admit - wasn't fun - however, the Rabbitohs still reside in the top four on the competition ladder on 20 points, so there's still plenty of upside!
The Stats that Matter
The Cardinal and Myrtle sure know how to bring the heat with the ball in hand, sitting second in attack (326 points scored). But don't be fooled, these boys know how to hit hard and hold out an attacking raid, with the equal third defence in the competition (230 points conceded alongside Manly), with a respectable 96 points differential in our favour.
On average, the side scores 23 points per game while conceding 16 points per game, with their biggest win being a margin of 32 points against the Broncos, and the heaviest defeat being by just twelve points against the Eels in Round 12. Not bad at all.
The Best Tries of 2019 (So Far)
Halfback Adam Reynolds, despite missing two games, has continued to show he is one of the most consistent and reliable players in the league as the fourth most prolific points scorer in the competition with 106 points. The sharpshooter also sits in third for goals kicked (49), contributing over a third of the side’s points.
The Rabbitohs have scored the equal-third most tries in the comp with 53 (averaging 3.8 per game) alongside Parramatta, as well as having kicked the second most goals with 57 (one behind the Storm on 58). Five-eighth Cody Walker has been on fire this season, scoring 11 of those 53 tries and is the second highest tryscorer in the competition behind Parramatta’s Maika Sivo (12).
Opposition defences be warned - breaking the line is no problem for South Sydney, having made the most line breaks with 59 (three ahead of the next best in Cronulla) while making the fourth most post-contact metres (6270), and placing third in tackle breaks (449).
You would think Forest Gump was wearing the Red and Green this season, with the marathon men from Redfern leading the competition in running metres (22575) and all runs (2575) while sitting in second for kick-return metres (2765) and dummy-half runs (187).
Captain Sam Burgess has literally led from the front with the most runs (213) and run metres (1857, average 143 per game) in the side.
Cook and Walker combine
In terms of assists, the Red and Green sit in fourth for try assists (40) and second in line break assists (40). With 15 try assists to his name, Damien Cook has been the most generous Rabbitoh and stands in equal-second in the competition for putting his teammates over the line, with Cody Walker is the next best in the side with 8.
When it comes to line break assists, Cook sits atop of the tree alongside Mitchell Pearce with 12, and with Walker having eight to his name, the duo have contributed over half the side’s try assists and line break assists combined.
In terms of negative play, however, the Rabbitohs sit in the top five for errors (152), ineffective tackles (235) and handling errors (138).
With representative honours and injuries comes opportunity, it's great to see a number of new faces wear the famous Cardinal and Myrtle.
With Corey Allan, Rhys Kennedy, Billy Brittain, Connor Tracey and Tom Amone all making their first-grade debuts this season, the side has already used a whopping 29 players this year - which is quite a bit considering 2018’s total was 26.
Allan tackle on Croker saves certain try
Not since 2016 have we seen so many new faces, with a number of those players being emergency call-ups due to injury, and while we have had our share of omissions, all five of the class of 2019 have looked comfortable in the top grade and ready to rip in.
Corey Allan has been the stand-out so far with twelve appearances to his name, with the young fullback showing he has what it takes to be a permanent member of the top seventeen and has been cooler than ice on a number of occasions.
Tom Amone has been the cornerstone of the Canterbury Cup side’s forward pack, with the tough front rower showing plenty of intent and impact in his stint in the top-grade.
Saving Cookie's number the priority for Brittain
Deputising for Cook and Walker respectively, Billy Brittain and Connor Tracey both made their debut for the Club in round 12, showing glimpses of brilliance with the ball-in-hand and proving they can handle the defensive workload.
Bring out your sunnies, because the future of the Club is looking bright.
A number of new faces have made their way to Redfern in 2019, and needless to say, all of them have been welcome additions to the squad.
Firstly, Wayne Bennett.
The master coach has arrived at the Club to help build a winning culture - his record of ten wins and four losses says it all. Bennett has brought his squad together and has proven he can get them to play their best - just take a look at the form of Damien Cook and Cody Walker.
And who could forget his hilarious displays at coaches' media - bringing plenty of smiles with his witty sense of humour.
The previously mentioned Corey Allan has been a great addition to the squad, showing plenty of maturity and positional awareness both on the wing and at fullback.
Full of confidence and aggression, young prop Liam Knight has been a breath of fresh air, bringing plenty of impact off the bench, and has gotten himself off the nudie run with a brace of tries over the last month.
Late signing Ethan Lowe has been proving his utility value, playing in a number of games off the bench while filling in in the centres from rounds 9-12, adding experience to the forward pack.
The returning James Roberts has only played two games so far after signing in late May, but has hit the ground running, scoring a try in his return match while setting up Dane Gagai for an absolute screamer against the Panthers last week and has helped patch up a backline affected by injuries.
Tom Amone has been a fan favourite in the Canterbury Cup, while teammate Bayley Sironen has made one first-grade appearance as a bench utility after playing in the halves and back row. Mid-season signing Jaxson Paulo has also made his presence felt in reserve grade, scoring two tries in two appearances.
Both Cory Denniss and Kurt Dillon have also had solid outings in the Canterbury Cup, despite both suffering long-term injuries, but they'll be valuable additions to the squad once they return.
With an already strong squad, it's great to see the new additions fitting right in!
With the squad putting in strong performances throughout the year, there are bound to be a number of stand-outs.
The outside backs have taken a number of hits with injury with Alex Johnston and Braidon Burns having long stints on the sideline. We also cannot forget the retirement of Greg Inglis.
In their absence, young guns Campbell Graham and Corey Allan have stepped up to the plate, while stand-ins Kyle Turner and Ethan Lowe continued to do the job time and time again. As always, Dane Gagai has been dangerous both in the centres and on the wing.
As previously mentioned, Damien Cook and Cody Walker have been shining lights for the Rabbitohs’ attack, contributing over half the side’s try assists and line break assists, with the latter making his State of Origin debut after captaining the Indigenous All Stars earlier in the season.
Don’t forget halfback Adam Reynolds though, who has forced 15 dropouts while contributing six try assists and seven line break assists along with his 49 goals.
Young forward Cameron Murray has been one of our most improved this season, making his State of Origin debut for NSW after a stellar start to the year, with six tries to his name while also averaging 121 metres and 34 tackles per game in his first season to start.
After taking up the captaincy and moving to the edge, Sam Burgess has continued to lead from the front, while his second row partner John Sutton continues to age like a fine wine with some strong performances to his name.
Cook lays it on for Murray
Up front, Thomas Burgess and Junior Tatola have been unsung heroes of the side, with the former laying the platform for the side with an average of 129 metres per game while the latter has started a majority of games in the front row after playing off the bench in his rookie season - these two don't mess around.
With 53 tries to choose from, there are plenty of candidates, but we would have to say the best so far was our last.
Down by two against the Panthers in round 14, the Rabbitohs had just come off a barnstorming Liam Knight try and were looking to continue their ascendency against their opponents.
Roberts turns on the jet boots
But few expected the side to strike back so quickly - a looping cut out pass from John Sutton 20 metres from the Rabbitohs’ own try line saw James Roberts with the ball, and with a jink and step, the centre puts on the jets and got around Josh Mansour to find himself in clear space.
With the fullback to beat, Roberts threw a deft pass to Dane Gagai on the inside, completing a great long-range effort that got everybody on their feet.
The forwards have been at their hard-hitting best with a number of big bone-rattlers but there's one that tops the rest.
Against the New Zealand Warriors in round five, the Rabbitohs found themselves with a twelve-point deficit and with less than a quarter of the match left - enter Sam Burgess.
Ello's Play of the Week Round 5
With their opponents getting a quick tap after a kick went awry, David Fusitu’a took the ball up to find himself buried by Burgess’ shoulder, with the hit measuring a ten on the richter scale.
The hit not only put the Warriors on the back-foot, but gave the side the boost they needed for Walker to weave his magic to see the Rabbitohs take out an emphatic victory.
Although there have been some great wins this season, it’s hard to go past our round eight victory against the Brisbane Broncos.
With captain Greg Inglis retiring weeks prior, his teammates put in a special effort in his tribute match, putting the Broncos to the sword in a 38-6 demolition.
Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Broncos
What made it even more special was seeing the goanna try-scoring celebration from Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker and John Sutton in what was a true testament to the Club Legend that is Inglis.
Well, the back half of the season!
With the representative round this week, and the bye round in two weeks’ time, it’s a great chance for the side to regroup and get on with the job.
The Rabbitohs meet the Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium before the week off, followed by hosting Manly at ANZ Stadium then travelling to Townsville to take on the Cowboys.
Match: Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs
Round 15 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
The Rabbitohs then return to Sydney to take on the Dragons and Sharks, before travelling to the Central Coast in what will be an absolute blockbuster against the Melbourne Storm.
In round 22 we celebrate Women In League round against the Bulldogs, before back-to-back trips to Brisbane and Auckland, which then sees the team back at ANZ Stadium to take on our arch-rivals the Roosters for the last game of the regular season - how it should be.
Match: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
Round 17 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
With a number of players including Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Adam Reynolds and Braidon Burns returning from injury in the coming weeks, and with a fit squad at the back end of the season, the Rabbitohs will be looking to make a late charge into the Finals, something we have seen plenty of times in the past.
Here’s to an even bigger second half of season 2019!