SOUTH Sydney coach Michael Maguire said after watching the competition leaders crush Gold Coast he would not be afraid to make further major team changes – and even “experiment” – despite a looming minor premiership.
The Burgess brothers steamrolled the Titans in a 32-4 victory which saw Sam post two tries, George one and Tom also make a big impression. Between them, the Dewsbury brood ran for 434 metres.
But it was the late, two-try cameo from halfback Luke Keary which could have the biggest impact on Souths’ bid for their first premiership in more than four decades.
“It’s about opportunity,” said Maguire. “(We lost) on Monday and it allowed a few fellows and opportunity tonight and they’ve taken them.
“Everyone behind the boys who played tonight is fighting very, very hard to get their positions … back in the team.”
He said Ipswich youngster Keary’s best position was “in the halves”. “It allows us to put John (Sutton) in the pack and play with two halves.
“It’s allowed us to look at how we can play the game, it allows us to experiment with the players we’re bringing in. We’ve just got to find the right combination.
“I’m sure if he had the opportunity to start for us, he’d do well. It’s just a matter of time.
“If he keeps performing like that, he’s pushing his way into the team.”
Gold Coast co-captain Greg Bird and his coach said the Burgess boys were almost interchangeable.
“The Burgess brothers are all the same – one comes on, one goes off,” said John Cartwright.
“If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, those guys. They’re all big physical and aggressive.”
Bird, who will probably face the Burgesses at the World Cup, added: “They’ve big and powerful and they’ve got late footwork. They’re not just lumbering up,m they’ve got that late feet which makes it hard to get a good shot on.
“They kept coming, they were relentless.”
Maguire said the fourth Burgess brother, Luke, was pushing heavily for inclusion.
“Luke is working extremely hard,” the coach said. “He’s come back from a fair injury so he’s now played a few games in reserve grade.”
A couple of early mistakes from Gold Coast fullback Jordan Rankin helped the Rabbitohs, with Sam Burgess stepping his way over in the 11th minute. George then reached out to score just before halftime, giving his side a 14-0 advantage.
When prop Sam Burgess scooped up a loose ball and dived over at 44 minutes, the contest was over.
But Keary set Robina alight when he backed up comeback centre Matt King to score one touchdown in the 68th minute and then appeared to palm off a team-mate after breaking free to touch down seven minutes later.
A compelling side-story for Souths was the return from a broken arm of King. “It’s a great story,” said Maguire. “When he heard about his arm and broke it a second time, he was probably thinking about retirement.
“Kingy’s been a major part of everything that’s been going on.”
Having played his 300th game for the club, captain John Sutton said: “Probably this is the best team I’ve been associated with at the club. It’s good times here.”
The Titans looked to have lost hooker Matt Srama (sydesmosis of the ankle) for an extended period while prop Luke Bailey twisted an ankle.
“We got bashed up all over the park,” said coach John Cartwright. “…steamrolled
“Confidence is that invisible force. When it’s there you know it, when it’s not there you know it and it’s missing at the moment.”
SOUTH SYDNEY 32 (S Burgess 2 L Keary 2 G Burgess tries A Reynolds 6 goals) bt GOLD COAST 4 (K Gordon try) at Skilled Park. Referees: A Klein/P Haines. Crowd: 20,302
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD