RLW Season Review: SOUTH SYDNEY

By STEVE MASCORD

THERE’S one stark fact that tells the story of how South Sydney’s season ended. Insiders say the bunnies didn’t have a soft tissue injury for the entire season – until their halfback tore his hamstring 26 minutes into the preliminary final against Canterbury.
“And we were matching the Bulldogs, set for set,” winger Nathan Merritt reflected. Some in the bunnies camp are confident they would have won had Adam Reynolds stayed on the field. Others concede Canterbury would have been hard to hold out anyway. We’ll never know.
But that only tells the story of how Souths’ season ended. It doesn’t tell the story of how the season was played – which was bravely, entertainingly and even stirringly. In the lead up to the preliminary final, Souths jumpers of every era from no sponsor at all through Smiths Crisps to today were dug from the bottom of closets and worn proudly to work, school or just to the corner shops.
Souths – at one stage dismissed as a millionaire’s plaything – had evoked the sort of solidarity that once led to the streets of Sydney being blocked by protesters. The disaffected, the lapsed supporters were back and the achievements of the team encouraged them to stay.
“Our fans, they like to see a team that tries,” says chief executive Shane Richardson. “That’s all they ask. And I can’t think of one game this year where the team didn’t.
“Our physio and medical staff did such a good job during the year that in our final game we had a full squad. So to have the game influenced by the sort of injury we didn’t have all year … well ‘disappointing’ is an understatement.”
After the 32-8 defeat to Canterbury on September 22, disappointment was evident. But in the post-match media conference and in the dressing sheds, it was eclipsed by something else that was almost palpable – pride.
“Greggy (Inglis) trying to stop that try right at the end – that’s what this club is all about now,” said coach Michael Maguire.
“As a playing group and as an organisation, we’re proud of where we’re heading. We’ve learned a lot of lessons this season and we’ve fought through various adversities at times.
“We’ve had wins and losses and I’m very pleased with the way the players have fought back after those situations. I’m pleased with the season but I also know as a team we’ve got a lot in front of us, to keep working.”
Co-captain Michael Crocker summed up 2012 (16 wins, eight losses) succinctly and perfectly: “We’ve come a long way in 12 months.
“We’re all about building our own history and our own culture and we’re all really proud of what we have achieved this year. Obviously we’re disappointed with the result (against Canterbury) but we were beaten by a better team. We know we have to work on that, work hard in the off-season and make sure we’re better next year.
“The support … 70,000 people … the support for us all year has been outstanding. It’s great for the game to have all those people here tonight, great for the club to have that support behind us.”
South Sydney players seemed to tacitly accept that they were in the top four sides in the NRL – which is a great improvement from 2011 (11 wins, 13 losses) – but not the top two.
“It’s been enjoyable definitely,” says the talismanic Greg Inglus. “Obviously it was a bit of a surprise to a lot of people, the switch to fullback (for me). It wasn’t a surprise to me. Michael Maguire tossed that up the first round of the season. I just had to work on my game, keep developing throughout the year.
“We’ll get back into the tough work of the pre-season, get a good pre-season under my belt and get ready to go back next year. Hopefully Sammy (Burgess) gets picked for the English side. He (plays for them) for a month and hopefully Luke Burgess gets picked as well.
“The best thing about this is we can take these feelings now. It sort of drove us, the finals loss in Melbourne. It really hurt us. We had to get back. We fought our way back but it’s the same – we’re very disappointed with the way it went (against Canterbury) and I think it will drive us through the whole off-season.”
Winger Nathan Merritt has seen some VERY lean times at Redfern. He says they won’t return any time soon and that fans which were once considered fickle will now be diehard.
“In previous years, we haven’t had too much support behind us,” said Merritt. “This year, we’ve strung a couple of wins together, played some good football, finished in the top four and we had a lot of support from our fan base.
“It was great to see from our perspective. We definitely love the crowd getting behind us and it definitely helps out on the field.
“I definitely think they will (stay). We’ve got a great squad behind us and we’ve just got to keep improving each year. This year was a great boost from last year.
“We’ve just got to take it forward to next year now. We’ll have a big pre-season and take that on board ….  I think the fans will stay around because we’ve pretty much got the same kind of squad around and we’ll be competitive next year.
“We had a good experience in the finals for this year. We’ve got to take that on board, remember this pain and how much it hurts and take it into 2013 and improve on what we have to do to get to the grand final and win it.”
Hear that? Whether Souths ever stopped being the pride of the league is debatable. But even after falling a week short in 2012, Souths now have pride in themselves.

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  • Crocker Close To Re-signing With Souths – Agent

    Michael Crocker/wikipedia

    By STEVE MASCORD
    VETERAN Michael Crocker is edging closer to re-signing with South Sydney for another year, according to his agent. 
    The finals kicked off last weekend with the talismanic hard man’s future under a cloud amid reports he wanted a two year contract and the bunnies were only willing to offer him one.
    But manager Andrew Purcell says that is no longer an issue and it is now a case of how much players and clubs were going to get out of the new NRL TV deal.
    Purcell said he was not talking to any other clubs on Crocker’s behalf.
    “Obviously you don’t want to shut off the possibility of playing on longer than a year or whatever, Purcell tells Rugby League Week.
    “But things are fine there, that’s not an issue.
    “He wants to stay and they want to keep him.
    “We just don’t know what’s going to happen regarding the TV deal.
    “Will players get a lump sum? Will the salary cap go up? Will the ARLC give match payments?
    “Until we know that it doesn’t seem like there is any great rush to finalise things.
    “We haven’t completely reached other terms yet either but it’s looking good.’

    Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

    Crocker Calls For NRL Players To Stand Up Against Divers

    Michael Crocker/wikipedia

    By STEVE MASCORD

    SOUTH Sydney veteran Michael Crocker has called on all NRL players to wage a campaign aimed at getting the video referee to butt out of high tackles.

    Crocker, who hit the headlines for criticising on Twitter NSW captain Paul Gallen over the practices of diving and staying on the ground for penalties, has detailed his thoughts on the issue for Rugby League Week.

    And he wants the video referees’ powers to be dramatically reduced so players stop trying to get their attention.

    “I think if we stick together and really voice our opinions on it, say we want to get rid of players playing for penalties and get it back to what it used to be … then hopefully the NRL and the commission will listen and help us change it,” said Crocker.

    “If it’s worthy of a send-off, the referee shouldn’t miss it. There’s a pocket referee and a normal referee out there.

    “The video referee shouldn’t be involved at all. They should be there purely for tries. Just like it used to be: if you can get up and play the ball, you get up and play it.

    “If you can’t and the referee doesn’t think there’s anything in it, get someone else to play the ball. If there is anything in it, that’s up to the match review committee to assess.”

    Crocker said preventing all contact with the head off attackers was “not possible”. “You’re always going to have accidental contact – people will always fall into a chest or a shoulder or a knee,” he said.

    “You can’t rule that out totally. Obviously anything that’s got intent, recklessness or carelessness – that’s what we’re trying to rub out of the game.

    “The referees can make that decision on the field.”
    Crocker was penalised for a high tackle on St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby in the 67th minute of Sunday’s golden point win by the bunnies.

    “It’s hard with those ones – Ben slipped and there was contact there,” Crocker said. “I think it’s just up to the referees to make a decision and once they make a decision, get on with it.

    “Obviously there’s going to be contact but I think if the referees see intent or recklessness or carelessness in the tackle, then that’s when (it should be penalised.

    “If there’s accidental contact, I think they call play on, you get up and play the ball and the game plays on.”

    Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

    Crocker Supports Sandow

    Michael Crocker/wikipedia

    By MATT ROSSLEIGH

    SOUTH Sydney co-captain Michael Crocker has thrown his support behind former team-mate Chris Sandow after Parramatta icon Peter Sterling said the current Eels halfback was overweight.

    Sterling told Triple M on Monday that he thought Sandow was playing “four or five kilos above what he should be playing,” but
    Crocker says it’s more about Sandow being out of form than being unfit.

    “It’s hard to tell with Chrissy (Sandow), he’s a little nugget so it’s hard to tell if he’s actually carrying anything,” Crocker said at Redfern Oval.

    “It’s probably more so that he’s not taking the line on than anything and that’s why he’s (Sterling) probably saying he’s unfit.

    “Chrissy is at his best when he’s taking the line on and I don’t think he’s been doing that.”

    Sandow was Parramatta’s high profile signing in the off-season from the Rabbitohs but since joining the Eels he has only managed a single victory out of the opening six matches – leaving the club last on the ladder.

    “It’s hard going to a new club and of course he’s under pressure being one of their major signings and one of their major playmakers,” said Crocker.

    “It’s a lot harder for a half to go into a team and take over than it is for any other player.

    “I’m sure the more he works with Ben Roberts and Jarryd Hayne and they get their combinations right the better they’ll be.”

    Sandow has been replaced in the South Sydney team by Adam Reynolds, and Crocker says the young half is improving with every week in the top grade.

    “His (Reynolds) control has been great, he’s directed us around the park a lot better and his kicking game has been great all the way
    through the season and I think he’s going to get better,” the former Australian international said.

    “The more he plays the more his confidence is going to grow and they’re forming a pretty good combination out there, Issac (Luke),
    John (Sutton) and Adam.

    “He’s really starting to come out of his shell a bit and blossoming into a good player.”

    Souths will travel to Auckland for Sunday’s clash with the Warriors looking to win three matches on the trot for the first time since the back end of last season when the side went on to win four games in a row before narrowly missing out on the finals.