Says Scott Woodward of our NRL service
The testimony against the South Sydney Rabbitohs going back to back in 2015 is overwhelmingly; they cannot win.
Stats gurus each year earn themselves a “free” holiday by opposing the Premiers, and it is hard to challenge their reasoning which has naught to do with the imposing list that Souths coach Michael “Madge” Maguire has at Redfern.
They still have a champion side and what is scary for the opposition is that half back Adam Reynolds looks to have gone up a notch and is now the world class organiser that he promised to be.
Glenn Stewart is arguably the best right edge forward in the game when in form and if Laurie Daley is serious then he should play Origin this year, while the Rabbitohs other major recruit, Tim Grant will also be after his Blues jumper.
The departure of Grand Final hero Sam Burgess has created a “hole” in the middle and we are yet to see who will be the long term solution. Bench warmers Ben Lowe and Jason Clarke shared the “middle” duties in the WCC against a tackle shy St Helen’s last week, but that is like replacing Phar Lap with Raddish.
Stewart will play on the right edge and the naughty John Sutton will play on the left which leaves a massive job for whoever is plugging up the middle. Perhaps the very promising Chris Grevsmuhl is the long term solution, but there is no doubt that the coach has a dilemma as Kyle Turner and Chris McQueen are also edge players.
It remains to be seen if John Sutton can last 26 Rounds in the forwards, although he will look like a center as he tries to avoid the tough stuff in the middle.
Coach Michael McGuire has a 54/83 (65%) record at Souths and he has shown us that he is a master at solving problems like when he replaced Bryson Goodwin and Joel Reddy with Dylan Walker and Kirisome Auva’a, but somehow the likeable brother in laws have found their way back into the top 13. Auva’a may be back and the coach also has gun kids Aaron Gray, Angus Crichton waiting to blood in the big time.
The playing list is looking good and promises to get even better, but the stats guys don’t care about list management, they only look at data and it says in big bold letters that the Rabbitohs cannot win.
We all know that no team has gone back to back in 22 years, but just as intimidating is the fact that no team has flown back from England and won the Premiership this century, in fact, only two teams (The Roosters in 2003 and the Melbourne Storm in 2008) have actually even made it to the Grand Final.
To add to the frequent flyer points many of the key Souths players have endured flights to NZ for the Auckland Nines after they flew to Arizona for some high altitude training, not to mention a stoush with a bouncer who was happy to turn a blind eye as he held out his hand for a Luke Burgess “offload”.
The Rabbitohs most valuable player, Greg Inglis has been in the Nines, the Charity Shield and also danced at the Indigenous All Stars match before playing a full 80 minutes against St Helens. High risk, and a wonderful advertisement for the game, but will it come back and bite him deep into the season after he plays in the ANZAC Test Match and three Origins?
History says it will.
The NRL are conscious that the power and the pace of their modern game is “killing” their most valuable players and they have indicated that we may see more teams introduced playing in a shorter home and away season to allow more matches in the UK.
The logic behind the stats is very clear; the modern day NRL player only has so many “miles in his legs” and history has shown us that after 26 rounds most players are “shot ducks”, especially the forwards.
The Bulldogs and the Panthers made the top four last season because they both had very deep lists with quality depth in most positions. The Cowboys, the Sea Eagles, the Storm and the Roosters simply ran out of fresh troops.
History shows that to win the NRL Grand Final now you must have the weeks rest. Sam Burgess was a basket case during the Finals and without the week off it is doubtful if he would have been able to play and he had several team mates who also could not train.
The speed and power of the modern game makes it virtually impossible for any player to give 100% every week and then back up into the Finals. You only have to look at how many players lowered their personal ratings after they played in the State of Origin.
Jonathan Thurston and Michael Jennings were exceptions but every other player dropped in their individual ratings including Greg Inglis, although he was still world class. This attrition contributed to the Kangaroos fielding their weakest team in memory and ultimately losing the Four Nations to the Origin free Kiwis.
Sam Burgess was regarded as one of the toughest and fittest players last season and unashamed said that his body could not take another season of NRL. His great rival, Sonny Bill Williams was also “patched up” to play in the semis last year and he also would be looking forward to resting his body parked in the centers playing Union.
We now have four certainties in the world; life, death, taxes and the NRL Premiers cannot go back to back!