Over the last few months the South Sydney Rabbitohs have had a good run of form, and it led a lot of their fans to ask me if I rated them as a true Grand Final contender. The whole time I said I wanted to wait and see how they went against one of the true premiership favorites leading into the finals race, as all the time teams fine tune their play and gear up for the beast that is finals footy.
On the weekend we got just the type of matchup I was looking for….and the Rabbitohs come up short.
Manly wasn’t playing at their very best but it was still enough to put their foot on South Sydney’s throat and keep it there for the majority of the match.
Against a top contender, the shortcomings of the Rabbitohs halves were there for all to see. John Sutton once again struggled while Adam Reynolds did a few things that showed inexperience. The Rabbitohs forwards played ok but they looked a class off the Sea Eagles pack who have so much big game experience that a late regular season game wasn’t going to worry them one bit.
We have seen the Rabbitohs win some games very impressively and against some very good opponents. Now as we enter the late stages of the regular season though, the contenders are stepping up and the pretenders are falling away.
The one issue many teams on the cusp of being contenders run into is that, when the pressure is really on, they are unable to lift to a new level. You have to be able to do that if you are going to win a Grand Final.
I think this is an issue that South Sydney will find they run into. There is no doubt that they have players in their lineup that are capable of incredible things, but when you are looking at playing in the last couple of weeks of the finals series, you need more than just one or two big time players.
No doubt Souths fans will point to the likes of Greg Inglis and Nathan Merritt as players that can take them to the next level, but that is missing the point. When you are a real contender, you have players capable of breaking the game as those two can. Its about your other players, your lesser lights, how do they go when the pressure is really on?
Think of the Sea Eagles themselves, their run to become Premiers in 2011 wasn’t just on the back of Brett and Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Jamie Lyon. It was about their young halves, Cherry Evans and Foran who both played brilliantly. It was about their forward pack which played relentless, uncompromising football. Even young WIll Hopoate was a major player in their title success…everyone has to take their game to another level, not just your stars.
Souths are a good team, and its great to see them doing well, but when the pressure is really on and the games really start to matter, I just see too many of their players who I don’t think are capable of taking their game to the next level against side that we know can.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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