For 11 rounds it almost appeared as though the Truganina Rabbitohs couldn’t lose. A side with a strong forward pack, elusive outside backs and relentless defensive pressure, the men in red and green have been the benchmark for other sides this season.
Heading into week one of the Storm Premiership Finals Series, the Rabbitohs are still sitting pretty on top of the Storm Premiership ladder, preparing to take on the Waverley Oakleigh Panthers in bid to book their place in the Grand Final.
When you look at their points scoring record for the 2022 season, they’ve notched up some seriously impressive numbers. They’ve recorded a 48+ point win over every team in the competition at least once this year and have scored over 60 points on eight occasions.
Club captain Keni Blair said his side’s ability to pile on the points from anywhere on the park can largely be put down to their ability to back their natural instincts, regardless of where they are on the field.
“I say to the boys even if we are on our 20m line and you think there’s something on then back yourself, if we are going to make a mistake then we are going to back our defence as well, so don’t be afraid to play what’s in front of you,” he said.
“Just back your instincts as we have the speed, talent and skills to do it, so why not try it.”
Powerful running from their big men in the middle has led the way for the likes of points scoring machine Ben McIntyre to light up the competition this season. McIntyre has been near unstoppable, racking up a whopping 23 tries and 302 points this season. Opposition defences are well aware of what he can do and the importance to shut him down but doing so is certainly easier said than done. He’ll be one the Panthers will need to nullify should they want to get the victory this weekend.
While McIntyre has impressed, it’s been the emergence of youngsters like 20-year-old Tyreece Falamoe and 18-year-old Suliasi Prescott that has been a shining light for the Rabbitohs this season, with the pair stepping up to score 13 and 9 tries each this season.
Blair said the opportunity for those young players to get a taste of first grade so early in the careers will be crucial for their development moving forward.
“It’s really good to have the young boys around the group and for them it’s a good experience to play with the older boys in first grade, that way they get to experience that contact which can then hopefully help push them onto higher places,” he said.
As for the pressure heading into this week’s qualifying final against the Panthers, Blair said he expects other sides in the competition to come for them and try to knock them off, but for him and his side, it’s all about maintaining their focus.
“I think there is a little bit of pressure for sure, I think with that first loss to the Bears, it didn’t bring us back down to earth but was a reminder that we are the benchmark and teams are going to come for us,” he said.
“Like even this weekend just gone, it was a tough game against Altona and they gave us a really good wake up too.
“We have to continue playing how we have all season and focus on our own game.”
“When it comes to Waverley, no matter if you are beating them by 30 or 40 points they are just never going to go away, they’ll turn up for a chase down tackle, a tackle no one expects them to make,” Blair said.
“We might have had the wood over them in our last few meetings but we can’t let the foot off the gas or let them get a sniff as they’re a really quality side so we’ll have to really try and match them and put our best foot forward,” he said.