My beloved Bunnies fell short in 2019 similar to 2018 with points drying up in the big games. As we head into season 2020, a team shake-up has occured, especially in the pack. With the retirements of the big Sammy Burgess (medical) and club legend John Sutton, and experienced campaigner George Burgess heading back home, the jury is out on Souths forward stocks.
The recruitment of two big names over the next couple over seasons in Latrell Mitchell and Jai Arrow (not until 2021) is a nice step towards keeping Souths at the right end of the NRL ladder. But will the bunnies pack of 2020 be able to provide the platform for one of the strongest and most dangerous backlines to do their thing?
Well, let’s look at the forward pack of last year and maybe our answer lies within. Let’s start with the experienced guys that have departed first.
- Sam Burgess played 17 of 25 matches in 2019 though 4 were playing busted post-surgery. He averaged 74min to start and then 54min later in the year,
- George Burgess played 11 matches averaging only 30 min with only 3 starting roles,
- John Sutton played 24 matches at 63 minutes per game.
- Cameron Murray played 23 matches at 59 minutes per game;
- Ethan Lowe played 22 matches at 57 mpg;
- Jayden Su’A played 15 matches at 41 mpg;
- Tevita Tatola played 24 matches at 41 mpg;
- Liam Knight played 20 matches at 41 mins with only 7 starts;
- Mark Nichols played 21 matches at 32 mpg;
- Tom Amone played 5 matches at 32 mpg
- Dean Britt played 11 matches at 39 mpg;
- Bayley Sironen played 3 matches at 18 mpg.
So Sam will clearly be a big loss, but based on his game time last year maybe not missed as much as what has been made out. George was irrelevant and Sutton was solid without being outstanding in his last year.
So who benefits? Predicted game times under Predicted team line up.
Ins and Outs
Ins Latrell Mitchell (Roosters), Bryson Goodwin (Warrington), Troy Dargan (Broncos), Steven Marsters (Dragons), Patrick Mago (Broncos), Joshua Cook, Dean Hawkins, Keaon Kolomatangi, Ky Rodwell (upgraded from development contracts), Hame Sele (Panthers) (4-week train and trial deal)
Rumours are Souths are looking at another middle forward. James Graham and Jack Hetherington have been mentioned.
Outs John Sutton, Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess (retired), George Burgess (Wigan), Dean Britt (Bulldogs), Connor Tracey, Mawene Hiroti (Sharks), Adam Doueihi (Tigers), Kyle Turner, Billy Brittain, Jacob Gagan, (unsigned)
1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Dane Gagai 3. Braidon Burns 4. James Roberts 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds © 8. Tom Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Tevita Tatola 11. Cameron Murray 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Liam Knight
14. Ethan Lowe* 15. Mark Nichols 16. Tom Amone/Keaon Koloamatangi 17. Bayley Sironen (utility) or Alex Johnston if a back is chosen
Other options: Jack Johns, Kurt Dillon, Corey Denniss, Ky Rodwell, Alex Johnston, Bryson Goodwin, Corey Allan, Troy Dargan, Joshua Cook, Steven Marsters, Dean Hawkins, Jaxson Paulo.
* Lowe was injured at Nrl Nines – return to play not yet confirmed
Predicted Game Time (take with a grain of salt)
Cook 80min, Tatola 20/20min second stint, Burgess 20/20min, Su’A 70min, Murray 30 backrow/40min lock, Knight 30/30min
Bench; Lowe 40min, Nichols 35min, Amone 25min, Sironen or AJ 20min
Tatola and Knight could be the game’s two most underrated middles. Both average around 100m/25 tackles a game. Tom needs to step it up in 2019.
The Rabbits have a tough opening month playing Sharks (h), Broncos (a), Roosters (h) and Storm (a) before it opens up a bit versus Dogs (h), Dragons (h).
They play Broncos, Roosters, Storm, Bulldogs, Dragons, Raiders, Knights, Tigers, Eels twice in 2020.
- Top four games: 6 (against sides that featured in the top four in 2019),
- Top eight games: 12,
- Five-day turnarounds: 3 (rounds 9, 11, 18)
Also of note is Souths last game at ANZ will be round 15 vs Dogs and then last 4 home games are played at Bankwest (2), Sunshine Coast and Central Coast.
Damien Cook ($705,500 Hooker) 2019 Avg: 75.9 @ 0.95PPM Ownership: 26%
A set-and-forget hooker as he will be in your side at seasons end. But to start, questions are being asked if a mid and a cheapie hooker combo are a better way to go, freeing up a large chunk of his $700k for the better balance of your overall squad.
Also, will the souths pack provide Cook with enough go forward for him to get his attacking stats?
I must say I am leaning towards not starting him as can see him possibly dropping $100k with the tough draw to start the year and a shift to an a more expansive game plan with less big men in our pack.
Caveat: You will need your mid/cheapie selection to stay healthy and make money to make the risk of not starting him worthwhile.
Cameron Murray ($644,900 2RF) 2019 Avg: 69.4 @ 1.17 PPM Ownership: 30%
With 3 experienced premiership winning players departing last year it seemed obvious that your main attacking forward would get more game time in 2020. But Wayne being Wayne, threw a curveball at us with Murray training on the edge. So, it seems Murray will play the Sam Burgess role from 2019; starting on the edge and then moving into the middle. I can see him getting 70min minimum with maybe a reduction in base stats but more attacking stats. Let’s hope he is on Walkers left edge as the points will flow!
Latrell Mitchell ($653,100 Wing/Centre) 2019 Avg: 70.3 @ 0.89 PPM Ownership: 15%
Lazy Latrell has come to the Bunnies to play fullback. He’s the player that Souths desperately needed as an X factor out the back that could have made the 2018 and 2019 results different. He’ll be a bit of a POD selection to start the year due to the price and I think the 15% ownership would be largely made up of the not so serious overall supercoaches.
So, will he play 80 min at fullback to start the year? Will he play 80 but get a rest on a wing with maybe Gagai to fill in at the back? Will he take over the goal kicking from Reynolds? There are maybe just too many questions to start the year. But food for thought: he will be more involved from the back, with the potential bonus of Souths implementing 2 goal kickers. Latrell from his favoured right side and Reynolds from the left.
More questions than answers but, will you take the risk?
Cody Walker ($602,800 Wing/Centre) 2019 Avg: 64.9 @ 0.81 PPM Ownership: 5%
Do you ride the rollercoaster with Cody? He’s the type of player who can be sitting on 20 points for 70 min and then finish with 100. Loves his late junk points. He has averaged over 60 for the last 4 years and had his career SuperCoach high score of 150 last year.
With the added threat of Latrell out the back and possibly Murray on his outside, it’s a recipe for more attacking stats for the running half with defenses being kept in two minds. Will he best his try scoring total of 15 from last year? I think he can.
Liam Knight ($437,300 FRF/2RF) 2019 Avg: 47.1 @ 1.1 PPM Ownership: 9%
Liam Knight had a breakout year in 2019 after arriving at Redfern from Canberra, and Freddy Fittler has him “in the mix” for 2020 Origin selection.
With more minutes and a bigger workload this season, the 25-year-old will undoubtedly be posting some bigger scores as part of a new-look Rabbitohs pack. He has also been given dual-status as a 2RF, with Knight expected to play decent minutes in the back-row as Cam Murray shifts to second-row.
Braidon Burns ($454,400 Wing/Centre) 2019 Avg: 48.9 @ 0.72 PPM Ownership: 4%
He can be a supercoach gun but can his hammy’s hold up? He has a super friendly supercoach game and I’m expecting him to have a breakout year (continuing from last year). When you remove his 2 injury affected games where he scored 10 and 8 while playing less than 30 minutes, his average shoots up to 60.
How to fit him in your squad is the only difficult decision you should make. Let’s hope he gets through trials with no issues.
James Roberts ($392,700 Wing/Centre) 2019 Avg: 42.3 @ 0.6 PPM Ownership: 3%
I know. “BunnyAllStars has had too many sherberts.” But let us dig a little deeper. He is not huge on base stats but has lost roughly 8kg this preseason and looks happy and sharp at training. He has been doing sprint coaching with renown sprint coach Roger Fabri in the off season and could be even faster. Can he get back to his 2017 average of 60? Well, he only scored 5 tries last year and we can expect a huge bounce back year from him.
Jaydn Su’A ($303,600 2RF) 2019 Avg: 32.7 @ 0.79PPM Ownership: 17%
Su’A only averaged 41 minutes across his 15 games for the Bunnies in 2019, but this number is expected to drastically increase with the talent the club has lost in the forwards over the off-season.
Su’A could play 80 minutes on an edge, which would make him a must-buy at his price. It all depends on how Wayne Bennett selects his side in round one.
Ethan Lowe ($359,900 2RF) 2019 Avg: 38.7 @ 0.67 PPM Ownership: 3%
Ethan Lowe averaged 57 minutes across his 22 games for the Bunnies in 2019, but his numbers may increase if he grabs the starting edge spot over Su’A. I think he’d be a bit of a slow burner.
Over to you Wayne Bennett.
Any Outside back on the bench, but specifically…
Alex Johnston $377,200 (FLB/CTW) 2019 Avg: 40.6 @ 0.5PPM Ownership: 1%
AJ will have to oust Graham or Gagai for that wing spot to see any real game time in 2020 and may need injuries to get a starting berth. He could also be a bench reserve if Souths go down that route.
Tom Amone ($211,900 FRF) 2019 Avg: 22.8 @ 1.06 PPM Ownership: 2%
The 22-year-old prop’s game includes a mix of power and aggression. An Australian Schoolboys and Junior Kiwis representative player, Amone won the Sea Eagles’ ISP best and fairest player award in 2018 and was also named in the NSW ISP team of the year.
Could jag a bench spot but will be a slow burner as I’m not confident he will get more than 25-30min.
Bayley Sironen ($184,900 2RF) 2019 Avg: 14.3 @ 0.78 PPM Ownership: 4%
If Souths decide to run with a utility on the bench, Bayley is a good chance to grab that spot as he is able to play back row, 5/8 and some dummy half. Not sure he will get the minutes unless injury hits a starting player.
Keaon Koloamatangi ($171,900 2RF/FRF) 2019 NSW Cup Averaged 66 min and 141.3m/match Ownership: 7%
A rising star in the junior ranks, KK is a forward who is capable of playing anywhere in the forwards. He has big wraps from the club and has trained in some opposed sessions in the run on side. KK had an injury interrupted season last year which kept him from making his club/NRL debut. Will he nudge Nichols from his role or is he in a battle with Amone? Time will tell. Charity Shield will help to reveal Wayne Bennett’s pecking order.