South Sydney are bullish about their ability to return to the top of the pile after watching their NRL dynasty crumble from beneath their feet this year.
The Rabbitohs only have pride left to play for in their final game of the NRL season, when they meet Canterbury at ANZ Stadium, with the side set to miss the top eight for the first time since 2011.
For the first time on coach Michael Maguire’s watch, the Bunnies will watch from afar during September after falling sharply following a period of sustained success.
After three top-four finishes and a long-awaited premiership over the previous four seasons, the Rabbitohs will record their equal worst season performance since 2006 unless they can upset the Dogs.
Maguire said the side had shown over the last month that their standing on the table wasn’t representative of where they were at, as they prepare for post-mortem of this season’s failure.
“The players have definitely shown what they’re capable of this last month,” Maguire said.
“The way they turned out against Melbourne, we nearly had the win there in extra time, the Warriors game was a turnaround, to beat the Sharks, who have shown right throughout the season that they’re one of the competition leaders.
“The last couple of weeks have been a real lift for the club and we’ve got to make sure we take that forward.”
The Redfern faithful must be asking themselves what could have been this year after the side turned things around with those victories over the last month.
The club has been at times steered off track by upheaval, including the prescription drug scandal which resulted in Dylan Walker departing to Manly and a pre-season bust-up between Luke Keary and co-owner Russell Crowe.
Five-eighth Keary has played his last game in the cardinal and myrtle with Maguire confirming he had failed in his bid to overcome a hamstring injury and will miss the Bulldogs clash.
However the club has unearthed a readymade replacement in Cody Walker, who has been one of their best this year, while the likes of hooker Damien Cook and prop Nathan Brown have shown tremendous promise.
“Someone like Aaron Gray, Cody Walker, it’s great to see these young guys shining and stepping up,” Maguire said.
“Angus Chrichton, Zane Musgrove, and many more – the fact these young guys have risen and our senior guys are leading the way, it’s been a big part of what we’ve been doing over the last month.”