Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Souths: What Now?

I’m looking at South Sydney’s line up for this Friday’s finals’ match against the Melbourne Storm and I’m seeing a team that may not win.

Has Maguire tinkered too much?

Ever since Michael Maguire walked in the door I’ve been praising his efforts. He took them to the preliminary final last year where they narrowly missed out on a grand final birth. Sitting in the stands watching them get rolled through middle, like a road train pummelling wildlife on a remote highway, when they lost to the Bulldogs, I saw a team who, with another season under Maguire, another off-season for younger players and some key signings, could win the competition in 2013. I believed this and wrote about it here

Twenty – thirteen began and Souths' bolted out of the gates. Bryson Goodwin was surprisingly solid, Adam Reynolds was benefiting from experience and developed a superior and accurate kicking game, George Burgess was playing like the monster he is, Ben Te'o was showing how the extra hard time Coach Madge gave him in the off season was playing off, GI become a pure leader, Monster 2.0 Thomas emerged. Souths’ were the complete package.

One thing that stood out was the hot potato game for a spot in the side. Captain Michael Croker couldn’t make the run on side, and later the entire team. True to Maguire’s hard line stance, he was prepared to cut players who didn’t perform even if the team won comfortably. Fair call, he was creating and holding down his culture of expectation and performance. Over the course of the year the side has changed considerably. Quality players of 2012 are now sitting on sidelines; some through injury, some through form.

I am concerned that Maguire has taken the culling of players a little too far and therefore messed with the structure of a side that gelled and flowed well. He is toying with a lot of youth and could be missing some experienced heads. My big worry since this transformation of the squad over the past 26 rounds has been there backline. It’s obvious they have a pack to unsettle and bulldoze through any other if they play well but every round I’ve waited for Goodwin or one of the Dylan’s to slip up. They individually haven’t had a bad or terrible game, but there game has been covered up by the brilliance of their forwards, halves and fullback. In big games, and they get no bigger than finals, you need try-scorers. Beau Champion, Andrew Everingham & Matt King currently lay idle in the stalls. Everingham blue on to the scene after sending Maguire a highlights package synced to ACDC’s Thunderstruck. He backed it up with 15 tries in 2012. A slick finisher who held his own under the high ball, and in defence. Champion was a prolific try-scorer with Souths’ in previous years but has played only 8 games this year. Languishing in NSW cup with the North Sydney Bears, Champion needs to be back in the side scooting down that right side where he belongs. He & Merritt are the two best try-scorers at ANZ stadium. Matt King has suffered 2 broken arms this year, but if right to go, his experience could prove invaluable.

Ben Lowe, Michael Croker and Nathan Peats also miss out for this weekend. I’m unsure about playing Luke Keary with so few NRL games under his belt. A fantastic talent sure, but is he the strike they need off the bench in the finals? Parramatta-bound Peats offers a different dimension to Isaac Luke at hooker and when you have Sutton & Reynolds set in the halves, Keary’s inclusion is either interesting or questionable. Luckily South Sydney has a second chance if they go down to the Storm this weekend, and if they do some of those missing out could return as Madge is sure to make changes. I still believe South Sydney can win the competition but I believe they are making it harder for themselves. But what do I know? I’m just Average Joe with a keyboard and thoughts. Although I  was 2 spots off in my prediction!

Bring on the finals!