What’s happening at Souths?
The Bunnies won ten of their first eleven games, including a seven-game streak, but since then have won a modest three games from their last eight.
For a side with several past and present Origin players like Damien Cook, Cam Murray and Dane Gagai, it is an alarming slump.
Attacking production from the key members of their spine, namely Messrs Walker, Reynolds and Cook, has dropped off markedly since Round 11.
Now obviously there is going to be a correlation between the team results, and the performances of these players, but the decline in production is very evident.
Damien Cook, who was averaging 0.45 linebreaks per game before Round 11, hasn’t had one since. He was averaging nearly 1.3 try assists per game, but that has now dropped to 0.3. And finally, his tackle breaks have dropped from 1.9 per game to 1.2.
Cody’s Walker’s attacking production has declined noticeably as well, albeit it isn’t as quite pronounced as Damien Cook’s, while Adam Reynold’s has remained relatively consistent.
(based on stats from nrl.com)
Alex Johnston’s absence may have hurt Souths also, but Adam Doueihi has been a capable replacement.
There are obviously a number of contributing factors to this, which smarter people than us can discern better than we can, but the lack of grunt due to the absence of the Burgess brothers, who have missed a combined 14 games (GB – 6, TB – 3 and SB – 5) is obviously hurting.
Also, you can’t help but wonder whether Wayne Bennett, who is very familiar with teams impacted by Origin, could have handled the players during and post the Origin period.
The other thing that has us thinking is how fit is Damien Cook? For a noted dummy-half runner, it is staggering that he hasn’t made a line break in the last nine games (assuming the nrl.com stats are accurate).
Kudos to the Dogs
For a team that has been quite maligned during the year, it is remarkable to see them sitting ahead of the Dragons and the Cowboys.
Teams like the Dragons have multiple NSW (and England) reps, while the Cowboys have the services of arguably the most devasting forward in the game, yet the Dogs turn up to play week in, week out and are rarely embarrassed by their performances.
It is often said that defence aligns with motivation, which is interesting given how many points they’ve conceded. To that end, the Doggies have conceded fewer points than the Titans, Cowboys, Dragons, Warriors, Tigers and Sharks.
If you’re a Dogs fan, you can take solace in the fact that they look to be heading in the right direction now.
The Titans curse – update
After a brief respite when the Roosters won a couple of weeks back, the curse was back in force last week when the Dragons went down to the Sharks.
Their opponent last week was the Eels, who are favoured to win in Round 23, but as touched on above the Dogs are certainly capable of producing an upset.
After pumping their tyres last week, the Storm then goes out and get beat at home by the Canberra Raiders.
Their losses have been few and far between this season, but something to keep in mind with them is that two of their three subsequent wins have been by 54 (Round 9 v Eels 64-10) and 36 (Round 20 v Broncos 40-4).
If Bellyache has them fired up this week, they may well run up a cricket score v the Titans.
A bit of a mixed bag last week.
Game results: 6/8 – missed the Bulldogs and Storm.
With the start: 3/5 – we stayed out of a few games here (Sea Eagles v Tigers, Broncos v Panthers and Knights v Cowboys). The two we missed were the Sharks and Rabbitohs.
Game total: 4/8 – a 50% record is nothing to write home about, but the games we were keenest on, namely the Eels v Titans and Roosters v Warriors, both saluted.
Interest bets: poor effort this week. The only joy we had was for Mitchell Pearce to score a try.