When you look at the performances South Sydney have put together in 2020 (especially in terms of the fluent backline play) it’s been off the back of the silky combinations from the Spine. Experts have said the Rabbitohs have the most slick backline plays and it certainly shows having scored the most points in the competition.
The biggest sign of sustained performance amongst the spine is the adaptability within the playing group. When riddled with injury, they spine, as a unit respond to whoever fills that gap.
For example, they have not missed a beat since Corey Allan took over from Latrell Mitchell in round 16 or when Bayley Sironen had to fill in at five-eighth the couple of times Adam Reynolds was forced from the field (Against the Dragons and the Storm).
For the team at Hostplus, sustained performance means delivering strong investment returns to their members over the long term. It’s the same for the Rabbitohs, it’s not just one great game - it’s about consistently bringing your best, game after game, season after season.
Sustained Performer - ‘Big Moment Performer’ - Adam Reynolds
Clutch, calm and composed - the three ‘Cs’ that best describe our littler general and Club leader, Adam Reynolds.
Honestly, how many times has Reyno saved the day in the vital moment by kicking the game-winning goal or field goal, Or come up with the right play at the right time; whether it be a kick or pass?!
Clutch Reynolds wins it for South Sydney
His perfect display with the boot and his field goal was the difference against the Cowboys in Round 14 - In fact, the Cowboys scored more tries but Reynolds showed why he is renowned as one of the best kickers in the game.
Who could forget the perfect night with the boot he also had against the Sea Eagles? While the pressure wasn’t quite like it was against the Cowboys, the fact he kicked six from the sideline must be a league first?! Now that’s how you describe ‘Sustained Performance’ - having the presence of mind and composure to come up with the right play when under fatigue and pressure; to have ice in your veins.
Reyno topped the pointscoring in 2020 picking up milestones such as 1,600 career points and 200 NRL Games in the process. In a shortened season, he was one short of his season best for tries scored and had a goalkicking percentage of over 86%
Sustained Performer - ‘Step Up Specialist’ - Cody Walker
Cody Walker has proven time-and-time again that when he is playing well, the team follow. But what Cody Walker has shown even more-so this year is he can also steer his side to victory in the absence of key players.
When Adam Reynolds was forced from the field against the Dragons in round 12, Walker steadied the ship, kicked to corners and led his team to an important victory. Five rounds later he found himself in a similar position against the Storm when Reynolds underwent the HIA protocols and again took the pressure off Bayley Sironen who was there to fill in at five-eighth.
Not only is Walker reactive to the situations that present itself on-field but he is also a Step Up Specialist when it comes to the big games. Two key games that come to mind were Indigenous round (as mentioned against the Dragons) and against the Roosters in round 20.
Walker double has the Bunnies back in the lead
Against the Dragons Walker scored two tries, made two line breaks and ran for 150 metres and against the Roosters he had arguably a career-best game after bagging a double, assisting three and running for 167 metres!
So good Walker’s standout performances have been, NSW Blues Coach Brad Fittler has him in the conversation for rep honours at season’s end. With Origin now post-season rather than the usual mid-year schedule, this is the perfect display of a highly-talented individual sustaining his performances for the full calendar year - not just in a purple patch around rep time.
Sustained Performer - ‘New-Age’ Fullback - Latrell Mitchell
Latrell would be the first person to admit that his transition from centre to fullback took time and while he may not be up there with the other fullbacks for running metres, what Latrell brings to the back is a certain finesse that cannot be taught. You can make the argument he is the most dangerous fullback in the opposition’s own 10-metre zone due to his ability to make the right pass, kick or his decisiveness to run.
Not only is Latrell damaging when he takes the line on, but as mentioned he facilitates the ball superbly to his outside backs. He averaged more than one linebreak assist per game and despite only playing 14 games in 2020, Mitchell led the competition in this department right through to the last round of the competition.
Sublime Mitchell pass gets Johnston into space
Latrell Mitchell played his most consistent football from round eight right through to when he got injured in round 16 against the Eels. Here he, alongside the likes of Walker, Reynolds and Cook sparked a scintillating run of form led but their ability to play ‘off-the-cuff’ football and adapt to the new rules. Latrell won his last eight games straight; a fete only achieved by having consistency in your performance.
Sustained Performer - ‘The Runner’ - Damien Cook
Upon season’s COVID-19 resumption, changes were made to the rules in order to benefit ‘ad-lib’ football; steering away from structured attack to cause fatigue in opposition’s defence. As soon as the ‘set-restart’ rule was implemented, everybody automatically thought Cook would dominate; but like Latrell’s shift to the back, this too took time.
Cook try locks in a date with the Panthers
Cook has been as solid as ever but where he really took flight were in the games that matter the most - The Elimination Final against the Knights and then the next week’s Semi Final against the Eels. For those two games alone, Cook scored two tries, had four try assists, had 10 tackle breaks, averaged 170 metres and 44 tackles!
Cookie has ran for the most metres out of any dummy half in the competition averaging a tick under 100 metres per game and also had five tries to his name! With so much attacking injection, he is still getting it done on the defensive end averaging 47 tackles - A true player of sustained performance with and without the ball!