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Rabbitohs have what it takes to give title shake

Rabbitohs 32 Tigers 6

In the clear ... Souths second-rower Chris McQueen makes a run with support from Nathan Merritt as the West Tigers’ Blake Ayshford gives chase.

In the clear ... Souths second-rower Chris McQueen makes a run with support from Nathan Merritt as the West Tigers’ Blake Ayshford gives chase. Photo: Getty Images

South Sydney fans can really start to get excited.

They're probably showing signs of jubilation already, but in the past they've tended to get ahead of themselves in expectations. This year though, their team is the real deal. After decades of disappointment, which included having their great club removed from the premier league competition, the Rabbitohs now have a serious football team and are a real chance at winning a premiership.

Hard to stop ... Sam Burgess of the Rabbitohs takes on the Tigers' defence.

Hard to stop ... Sam Burgess of the Rabbitohs takes on the Tigers' defence. Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday's victory at ANZ Stadium came at the expense of an injury weakened Wests Tigers team, but it was the way they went about their work that convinced me this group of players has matured enough to dream of the ultimate prize our game can offer.

Remember, too, that Souths also had a couple of big guns sitting in the grandstands. The suspended pair of Isaac Luke and Greg Inglis will take the opportunity during their enforced lay-offs to free themselves of niggling injuries and they will hit September fresh and ready to explode. Roy Asotasi is not far away from a comeback as well. There is a sense of timing about all this.

This team is powerful.

David Taylor tries to break clear for Souths.

David Taylor tries to break clear for Souths. Photo: Getty Images

David Taylor and Sam Burgess lead a mean gang of forwards who can match it with any pack in the NRL. They also have size and aggression in the back line, which is vital in big-match football.

The difference between the two teams yesterday was the power running in attack from South Sydney. They blasted their way through Tigers defenders with a real ''get-out-of-my-way'' attitude. This was far more effective than the Tigers' attack, which headed aimlessly across field all day looking for soft gaps in the Rabbitohs' defensive line.

This team has skill.

Head over heels ... Nathan Peats of the Rabbitohs scores a try.

Head over heels ... Nathan Peats of the Rabbitohs scores a try. Photo: Getty Images

Some off the passing rushes and one-handed offloads yesterday were exhilarating in their execution. Rookie of the year, halfback Adam Reynolds, has that live-wire nature about him that ignites his side and causes all sorts of problems for rivals.

Five-eighth John Sutton yesterday produced what I believe to be a career-best performance. It was a combination of the two traits I just mentioned; power and skill. Sutton is a big man with the ability to punch holes in opposition defences. He also has these wonderful hands and silky skills that mesmerise would-be tacklers and can create line breaks with deft passes from seemingly impossible positions. Some of his offloads yesterday had me comparing him to the great Arthur Beetson. I can give no greater praise to any footballer.

Sutton has always been something of a frustration to me. His potential was there for all to see, however, previously he just hasn't displayed the passion and consistent intensity the top-line footballers show regularly. This year I see real changes in the lad. It's great to see.

This team has speed.

When someone bursts the front line and into the back field, the support play from the speed men at the back and out wide is outstanding. They turn half-chances into tries.

This speed also saves tries and covers opposition attacking raids. They never looked flustered at any time against the skilful Tigers yesterday. They just worked as a unit and rounded them up with ease.

This team has experience.

With the likes of Burgess, Taylor, Luke, Asotasi, Sutton, Matt King and Nathan Merritt in the side, I can't see this side being overawed by finals football.

More importantly, this team has great leadership.

Do not underestimate the contribution of co-captain Michael Crocker. He has played Test football, Origin football and grand finals with the Roosters and Storm. Quite simply, teams he plays for win football games.

The influence new coach Michael Maguire has had on this club is obvious. He has given these players knowledge, structure, composure and belief. They are in control of their football. They are also learning to control their attitude. I was mightily impressed with their new-found ruthlessness yesterday. That stuff wins trophies. Yep, get your flags out Souths fans, you are headed to September football. Enjoy!

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