2018 was a much improved season last year for the South Sydney Rabbitohs after a lacklustre twelfth place in 2017. Some personnel changes (Damien Cook moving into an 80 minute hooker role) as well as a new coach, Anthony Seibold, provided a much fresher outlook on the team, combining for a strong third place finish. At one stage of the season they were even heavily-backed premiership favourites!
Things however took a turn late in the season when there were whispers of unrest amongst the players once it was known that Seibold wanted to head back up north to coach the Brisbane Broncos.
In 2019, they of course lose their superstar back-row forward in Angus Crichton and Seibold has officially left the Burrow with Wayne Bennett taking over.
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2019 GAINS & LOSSES
Gains: Corey Allan (2021), Cory Denniss (Newcastle Knights, 2020), Kurt Dillon (Cronulla Sharks, 2020), Rhys Kennedy (2019), Liam Knight (Canberra Raiders, 2020), Matt McIlwrick (Wests Tigers, 2019), Bayley Sironen (Wests Tigers, 2019)
Losses: Jesse Arthars (Gold Coast Titans), Jason Clark (Warrington Wolves), Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Tyrell Fuimaono (Penrith Panthers), Hymel Hunt (Newcastle Knights), Zane Musgrove (Wests Tigers)
LIKELY STARTING 17
1. Alex Johnston 2. Campbell Graham 3. Greg Inglis 4. Dane Gagai 5. Robert Jennings* 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tom Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Adam Doueihi** 15. Tevita Tatola 16. Kurt Dillon 17. Dean Britt
*If Jennings is not re-signed Braidon Burns would be next in line.
**Doueihi is continuing his recovery from an ACL injury sustained in early August 2018. It would be quite some effort if he was able to return for Round 1, just over seven months from his injury.
Souths look to have an okay first eight rounds to start the year with an even split against four of 2018’s bottom eight and top eight sides. The defensive record of their first eight opponents defensive record for the 2018 season was as follows:
- Roosters (1st)
- Dragons (8th)
- Titans (14th)
- Manly (16th)
- Warriors (5th)
- Bulldogs (9th)
- Panthers (7th)
- Broncos (10th)
They do however only have three of eight games at home to start the year (one of which is on the Sunshine Coast against the Warriors).
Their bye falls in round 16.
Damien Cook – (Price: $726k, Position: 2RF, 2018 Average: 78)
After years of the hooker position being Cameron Smith vs nil (or at least a 10 point drop-off to the rest of the field), we finally have our Smith replacement. Damien Cook was unstoppable last year on his way to a total of 1707 points at an average of 78 PPG. The increase on his 2017 average of 43 PPG was thanks largely to his minutes rising from 47 to 79 MPG.Over the first ten rounds he had an average of 73 PPG before winning his origin berth and moving on to an average of 91 between rounds 11-18 (which included two 100’s and two 80+ scores from only six games). He closed the year out with a strong closing average of 75 PPG from rounds 19-26.
He not only broke out from a SuperCoach perspective, but also made the NSW side for the first time and shined throughout the series.
For the 2019 season, Cook will be under serious consideration by many SuperCoaches purely because there are not many consistent captaincy options with a high floor/high ceiling combination these days and he is clearly the best hooker in the game.
Will you start with him?
Sam Burgess – (Price: $560k, Position: 2RF/FRF, 2018 Average: 60)
Sam Burgess took a slight downturn last season with total score of just 1197 at an average of 60 PPG in 20 games. Whilst his base did stay roughly the same (49) compared to his 2017 average of 52 BBPG, it was the drop-off in tries (one last year compared to five in 2017) that looks to be a large reason behind his drop in average.
2019 sees an expected move to the right edge to accommodate Cameron Murray’s move to lock forward, resulting in Burgess running off Adam Reynolds’ shoulder and hopefully some nice grubber kicks in behind the line. He is also almost guaranteed of playing 80 minutes per game. With a more attacking role, in addition to his England coach taking over, I feel as if Sam is going to bounce back big time this year. It’s also important to note that he is a dual 2RF / FRF, which looks to be somewhat of a rarity amongst the premium assets this season.
Cody Walker – (Price: $569k, Position: 5/8, 2018 Average: 61)
If you are looking for a Mr Consistent at the 5/8 position, then Cody Walker is your man. With only six in 24 games scoring less than 40 points and just the one ton, it’s impressive for a half to have an average of 61 PPG for the season with only the one massive score all season. And even more impressive given the fact that he does not kick goals.
It will be interesting to see if Bennett will try to change Walker’s off the cuff style of attack, with the former Brisbane coach having more of a defensive mindset amongst his playmakers. This has the potential for less attacking opportunities for Walker.
Whilst Walker isn’t going to be that boom or bust type half that we are used to, he will give you a consistent 40-80 score in a position that can at times be very frustrating.
Alex Johnston – (Price: $488k, Position: FB/CTW, 2018 Average: 52)
Alex Johnston was fantastic over the first two-thirds of the 2018 season averaging a cool 57 PPG between rounds 1-10 and an impressive 64 PPG from rounds 11-18.
I believe that he is under priced this year at $488k (priced at a 52 average) due to the end of his season last year where he averaged just 35 PPG from rounds 19-26 due to struggling with a hamstring injury.
He has always had talent but there were questions around his play making abilities, which seemed to have improved in 2018. I can see A.J moving up to a 60 PPG average in 2019 and the fact he still has dual FB/CTW status is a massive plus.
Cameron Murray – (Price: $458k, Position: 2RF, 2018 Average: 49)
A few seasons of grooming look set to finish in 2019 for Cameron Murray with the boom youngster set for a break-out season.
He should more than likely take over the starting lock position and if not, it’s Crichton’s 80 minute second row slot instead of Burgess. It looks more likely though that Burgess will move to the edge, which should mean big minutes are on offering for Murray this season.
His pure base stood at 42 BPPG last season, which is almost at the point per minute rate. In the seven games that he started at lock last season, he averaged 63 PPG, with only one score under 60 points (a 40 in round 8 vs the Broncos slightly skewing his average a little lower than it could have been). Nonetheless, if you are getting a 63 PPG average player at a 49 PPG average price, I think he is close to a must have at least to begin the season as we look set to go for cut-price forwards to allow for splurging elsewhere.
Robert Jennings – (Price: $531k, Position: CTW, 2018 Average: 57)
After somewhat of a career year for Robert Jennings, I’m predicting a drop back to the pack this season with a 50 PPG average to be expected, and I’ll explain why. Coming off a season where he scored a total of 18 tries, including three hat tricks, it seems very unlikely that he can repeat that again this season. The Rabbitohs left edge is a lethal one, especially with a fit and firing Greg Inglis (second year back from his ACL injury); however, early in the season you need to play the percentages and I just feel that there are much better valued players in the CTW position come round 1.
Greg Inglis is also a very viable sleeper option, you can read Semisonic’s Player of Interest article here for a much more in-depth approach.
Thank you all for reading and good luck for the 2019 season.
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