RABBITOHS new and old are getting excited about what's happening at South Sydney. Last week, against Wests Tigers, the Rabbitohs got lucky for the win, and it boosted their confidence enormously. Yesterday, in the twilight at ANZ Stadium, they made it their business to beat Canterbury. The season is still only young, and they have a growing injury toll, but there is good reason to believe the pride of the league are going places.
New coach Michael Maguire beamed as he said: ''I thought it was a real courageous effort from our players today. They've obviously been working really really hard with our defence, and all that hard work paid off today. The amount of times the Bulldogs were down on our line and we had to defend, the courage they showed about getting up and looking after each other was probably the most pleasing effort today.''
And Bob McCarthy, one of the greats from the club's last premiership-winning era in the late 1960s and early '70s, was talking with enormous enthusiasm about what the future holds. ''I can't believe our defence,'' he said. ''This time last year we were getting beat by 30 and 40, and now we've tightened it up again. We're moving up now in defence. Last year we were moving backwards when they were coming at us. I think we can really look forward to a good future with the club.''
The Rabbitohs still have plenty of work to do, mostly in attack, but things are coming together well under Maguire. Souths, as a team, are improving at the same time as their rookie halfback, Adam Reynolds, is getting better. It was clear from the way Reynolds played yesterday he had taken plenty of confidence from the win against the Tigers when he landed a booming conversion from the sideline to force extra time.
Strictly speaking, Souths shouldn't have led at half-time. The Bulldogs had been sharper in attack and more resolute in defence, had created more chances and made less mistakes. But one mistake of Canterbury's cost them a certain try, and while the Bulldogs scored two tries via great work with the ball through the hands, there is no law against scoring off kicks. The Rabbitohs scored their two tries that way.
Reynolds kept going to the wing of the man who has stood out in the try scoring department - Andrew Everingham, with four tries from three games - and Everingham kept making the tactic worthwhile.
Reynolds bombed Everingham's way in the 18th minute, and after the ball had come down off the pack, Everingham showed great skill to collect it and flick it back in-field to centre Matt King while balancing like a tightrope walker with his feet just off the sideline. King scored the try. Two minutes before half-time Reynolds again bombed to Everingham's wing, and after King reached for the ball and missed, Everingham scored.
The second half was only six minutes old when Reynolds and Everingham combined to do it again.
Souths began to stretch out after that, with fullback Greg Inglis leading the way. Inglis had made a glaring error in the first half, but champions like him aren't put off by errors. He began to run rampant, cracking numerous tackles and making big metres, and Souths dominated the closing stages to win stylishly.
SOUTH SYDNEY 20 (A Everingham 2 M King tries A Reynolds 4 goals) bt CANTERBURY 10 (D Stagg S Turner tries S Turner goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 35,221.