The time has arrived for the South Sydney sleeping giant to awake and take control of the NRL like they should have over 20 years ago.
Club champion Mario Fenech, who captained the last Rabbitohs’ minor premiership-winning side in 1989, says it is imperative that the team capitalises on their current brilliant form.
In 1989 the Rabbitohs were bundled out with back-to-back losses in the finals, before finishing with the wooden spoon the following year and embarking on a finals drought that stuck with them until 2007.
And with the team again challenging for the minor premiership, just two points behind ladder leaders Canterbury, Fenech urged the young team to make the most of it.
“At the end of the day it’s time for us,” Fenech told AAP on Monday.
“We are a business, and success is a big part of being a good business.
“Every now and then it doesn’t hurt to win a comp like St George, Canterbury, Manly.
“They’ve all had their moment in the sun. And as a business we’ve cried wolf a couple of times in the last couple of years.
“It’s important to get up there and be able to compete with the big boys.”
Local juniors Jason Clark and Nathan Peats on Monday reiterated the importance of changing the club’s fortunes.
“Especially being a local as well, a lot of the local boys take (ending the premiership drought) on board,” Clark said.
“(But) a premiership is still far away. We’re not really aiming for there. We’ve got to worry about the five games coming up.”
Peats, whose father Geordi played for the Rabbitohs in 1996 and 1998, is all too aware of the suffering the club’s fans have felt since their 1971 success.
“It’s been a long time for Souths fans. We’ve had the team over the past few years but haven’t delivered,” Peats said.
“(But) we’re not getting too complacent.”
Fenech and Mark Ellison, the leading pointscorer from the 1989 Bunnies, both point to the current incarnation’s experience as the major point of difference between the sides.
“We had less representative players in our team back then than what we have now,” Ellison said.
“… I think it’s a bit early to answer (whether the premiership drought could be over).”
Both sides had forward packs dripping with talent, with the modern day enforcers Sam Burgess, Michael Crocker and Dave Taylor certainly a match for Fenech, Les Davidson and Ian Roberts.
But former NSW representative Fenech said this group has something his mob didn’t – a bit of strikepower in the backline, where Greg Inglis and Nathan Merritt rank amongst the game’s best offensive weapons.
“To be honest we were a team of scallywags really,” Fenech added.
“This year we’ve got the mongrel up front and we’ve got the strike power too.
“Our halfback, young (Adam) Reynolds, is very disciplined.”
All season Michael Maguire, in his first year as an NRL coach, has worked hard to temper external expectations at South Sydney.
That will become more difficult in the lead-up to September if, as Clark predicts, the Rabbitohs can go to another level with the return of suspended international duo Greg Inglis and Issac Luke, and a comeback from injured co-captain Roy Asotasi.
“I’d like to think so. I think it’s a level that needs to be lifted,” Clark said.
“Semi-finals football is definitely another level I can imagine.”
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