Despite a third-place finish and a narrow loss in a grand final qualifier, the Rabbitohs will be a little disappointed with their 2019 season.
Injuries certainly played a part. In the backs, skipper Greg Inglis was forced into retirement and breakout centre Braidon Burns was sidelined for lengthy periods with hamstring dramas.
Alex Johnston and Adam Doueihi also had long layoffs with Kyle Turner – himself then sidelined – Ethan Lowe and even at times Cam Murray among the forwards forced to deputise out wide.
The forwards weren't spared either with Sam Burgess troubled all year by a shoulder complaint that eventually forced his early retirement and his brother George Burgess spending almost as much time suspended as available.
Rabbitohs' top five tries of 2019
They banked wins early with a phenomenal start of 10 wins from their first 11 games, which proved particularly handy as four straight losses hampered by injuries and Origin absences followed.
A gutsy round 25 win over rivals and eventual premiers the Roosters was a bit of a false dawn with their season ended by an impressive Raiders outfit in the preliminary finals.
Home & Away record
Home: 8-4. Away: 8-4
An even split of home and away results for the Bunnies who finished the year as the only side to beat the Roosters at the SCG and also took wins home from Canberra, Brisbane, Auckland and New Zealand.
Of their four home losses, one came against Melbourne on the Central Coast, two came at the height of their injury and Origin disruption and the last against the late-surging Bulldogs.
The 2014 days of a huge Souths side barging through the middle of every other team look to be over, with the cardinal and myrtle finishing the season 12th for total post-contact metres.
Sam Burgess led the way despite his shoulder woes, making 46 PCM per game ahead of his brother Tom (42) and Burns (38). Jaydn Su'A was the hardest to bring down on a per-carry basis, making 3.86 PCM per run ahead of Tavita Tatola (3.39) and Dean Britt (3.37).
No Rabbitohs player finished in the NRL's top 10 in either metric.
Tries scored channel
There were plenty of tries on offer for Souths in 2019, with an attack roughly on par with the Raiders and Eels. Only the Roosters and Storm were comfortably ahead through the regular season.
They were one of the best teams at attacking through the middle, with 24 tries in the centre channel remarkably their most profitable channel. Plenty of Cody Walker's 15 tries and Cam Murray's 10 tries came through that part of the field.
The rest of their tries were spread fairly evenly, with the left slightly more dominant than the right as Campbell Graham (13 season tries) and Walker converted plenty of chances.
Tries conceded channel
With the NRL's fourth-best defence, tries conceded wasn't a huge issue for the Bunnies in 2019. Their left wing was the leakiest channel with 19 tries in that area, with a further 15 on the right wing and 15 more through the middle.
With the rotating roster of names forced to play out wide for Souths in 2019, a little defensive miscommunication would be expected but there was no defensive channel in which they weren't in the top half of the competition.
Tries conceded from penalties
The Bunnies were one of the best teams in the comp at holding sides out after conceding a penalty, with 21 tries for the season coming in the set after being penalised – no team managed fewer than 20.
Their strike rate at holding teams out could have been better given they conceded fewer penalties than any other side at just 134 for the year at just 5.6 per match but overall it wasn't a costly issue.
Metres gained from offloads
Offloads weren't a big part of the Rabbitohs' game plan in 2019, finishing last for offloads thrown. They were 12th for metres gained from offloads, suggesting they were a bit more effective with them than plenty of the other sides.
In fact, their gain per offload was the third-highest of any club, suggesting they were judicious in their use of the strategy but also that they could potentially have tried to get a few more away.
Liam Knight was the best offloader at the club with 235 total metres gained at just over 11m per offload. Damien Cook (158 metres) gained the next most while Alex Johnston and Jaydn Su'A each promoted over 16 metres per offload but combined for just nine such passes all year.
Goal kicking accuracy
The Bunnies, largely through sharpshooter Adam Reynolds, kicked at 82.6% in 2019 – second best of all teams behind only Penrith (87.5%), with Reynolds going at 84%. Second stringer Dane Gagai netted seven from nine attempts.
There were still two games Souths lost but could have won with perfect goal kicking – a pair of one-point losses to Manly in round four and Penrith in round 14, which would have edged them up to third on the ladder.
Metres conceded per set
One glaring area of weakness for Wayne Bennett's troops in 2019 was allowing opponents to roll upfield too easily. Overall Souths conceded an average of 43.9 metres per set – only Canterbury (44.4m) conceded more ground per possession.
Of the worst eight clubs in this metric, only Souths and Brisbane (also 43.9m) made the finals. The Panthers (38.6m) were remarkably the best but they were an outlier with the next three best all making the top four and the next three after that all making the top eight.
Dummy half runs
It should be no surprise that the side with the most explosive dummy-half in the games was up high for both total dummy-half runs and metres gained from dummy half.
The Raiders finished top of both categories with 396 dummy-half runs, ahead of the Bunnies' 343, and 3236 metres gained ahead of both Wests Tigers (3112) and Souths (2773).
Perhaps surprisingly however the Rabbitohs finished last in the NRL for metres per run from dummy half at just 7.8 per run. The Dragons (9.7), Bulldogs (9.6) and Broncos (9.5) topped this metric.
Cook easily topped the club for most runs with 186 at 7.5, while Dane Gagai (46 at 8.6), Braidon Burns (28 at 8.9) and James Roberts (16 at 9.5) all used the dummy-half scoot effectively.
As mentioned above, Souths were one of the best teams when it came to not conceding a try in the set after conceding a penalty, in part because they conceded the fewest penalties in 2019.
But not only did they concede the fewest, they were also awarded the most, giving them an extremely healthy penalty differential of +44. That means across 24 regular-season games, on average they earned two more penalties than their opposition, equivalent to a bonus two sets of six.
That sort of discipline is a huge leg-up given the tightness of the competition. The Eels (+27) were next best, though discipline didn't do much to help the Cowboys (+23) or Titans (+15) in the long run, while the worst differential was held by the Roosters (-26) who seemed happy to give away penalties on their own try-line and back their defence.