The 2017 NRL campaign belonged to Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and the rest of their Melbourne Storm teammates, who cruised to a Grand Final victory and picked up a minor premiership on the way to their eventual success, brushing aside most of the competition across the country with ease.
One side who were particularly disappointing were 2014’s champions, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who – not for the first time since their triumph almost four years ago – fell flat on their face. They finished a disappointing 12th, eight points adrift of the North Queensland Cowboys, who took the final play-off spot.
Michael Maguire was the coach who delivered that memorable 30-6 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs back in 2014, but has been unable to inspire a similar group of players to the same success since, even with the likes of Sam Burgess – who picked up the Clive Churchill Medal that year – returning to Souths after a disappointing spell in English Rugby Union.
Maguire has now moved on from his role with the Rabbitohs, with Anthony Seibold taking over the NRL’s most successful club ahead of the 2018 campaign. Ambitions will be high heading into 2018, particularly with Greg Inglis set to return and captain the side after missing the majority of the 2017 through injury.
As is the case with most clubs in the NRL, Souths’ aim will be to break back into the top-eight and challenge for silverware at the end of the season, with Seibold’s side priced at $1.80 in bet365’s National Rugby League betting markets, to avenge last season’s 12th placed finish and earn play-off football later this year.
Inglis’ absence was undoubtedly a major factor behind last season’s disappointing campaign, and the Australian giant will be looking to put things right when he returns from injury in 2018, and is likely to eventually take up his favoured role at full-back, where he has become one of the NRL’s most dangerous running outside backs (in the meantime, that role will be filled capably by Alex Johnston).
Of course, he and his South Sydney teammates have a lot to prove, but also the 31-year-old has an enormous amount to make up for, having personally missed out on Australia’s World Cup triumph at the end of the 2017 campaign. Inglis watched on as his international teammates stormed to a World Cup victory, eventually beating England in an entertaining, but low scoring, final in early December.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Inglis has impressed and proved to be one of modern day Rugby League’s greatest outside backs, however, Souths’ failures since 2014, combined with missing 2017’s key moments, will have hurt and Inglis’ personal heartache could prove to be the catalyst for Souths to have a successful 2018 campaign.
Inglis will not be fighting his battle alone, with Burgess sure to be hungry for another taste of NRL success after his 2014 heroics. However, it is Inglis’ return that has South Sydney supporters excited, and with their club captain watching his international teammates, Smith, Slater and Cronk, clean up last season, he will be out to put right a lot of wrongs.