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How Bunnies are mastering mayhem with old-school blend of physicality and skill




South Sydney are nearly the best in the NRL when it comes to making the most of attacking opportunities close to the try line and that’s what got them home among all the mayhem against the Roosters.

The seven sin bins reminded me of the old days where there was a traditional softening-up period where anything goes before a game of football breaks out.

Sunday’s game took me way back to the infamous all-in brawl between Newtown and Manly Preliminary Final in 1981 when Steve Bowden and Mark Broadhurst went at it hammer and tong. After the dust finally settled, the Jets put on a few really skilful tries and that got them through to the Grand Final.

The incidents in this Roosters-Rabbits clash were not as brutal as that game but they just kept on happening. You can’t blame the referee or the match officials for how the match played out – it appeared players from both teams took the game personally and it was the old schoolyard mentality of them trying to get away with whatever they could. 

You could argue they got it wrong with the Victor Radley sin bin for punching early and the one to send Tevita Tatola for 10 in the second half was probably a bit harsh but the breaches before that incident contributed to that decision.

They missed the Tom Burgess shot on James Tedesco but he’s been dealt with since so there are checks and balances in the game to ensure things get picked up when the one referee on the field misses it. Perhaps it’s better to go back to two but that’s a story for another day.

I thought Tedesco leaving the field early in the game was a big factor for the Roosters not refocusing – he would have been able to pull a few of them back into line when they were getting hot under the collar out in the middle.

When it was time to play football, Souths were clearly superior. They’ve got the right balance of physicality and their skill set when you remove all the nonsense that we saw on Sunday.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs is tackled during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

With Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Murray and Alex Johnston down that left edge, when it comes time to nail those chances, they more often than not make the right moves, even when they were down to 11 men on 13.

Campbell Graham, Jai Arrow, Keaon Koloamatangi and Murray have that physical edge you need to ruffle the opposition and then the attack flows from that.

They have an ability to absorb the pressure and emotional side of the game without letting it get to them too much.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs makes a break during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Now the challenge for Souths after all the emotion of upsetting their rivals and getting through to the Semi-Finals stage is to get themselves back up for the contest against Cronulla on Saturday. 

The Sharks were similar in that they didn’t have to visit the Cowboys’ end too often last Saturday night but still scored 30 points.

I quite like the way Nicho Hynes and Matt Moylan’s halves combination is humming along.

They have the benefit of guys like Will Kennedy, Toby Rudolf and Dale Finucane getting some game time under their belt after missing a few weeks before the playoffs but I’m sure Craig Fitzgibbon would have preferred not to have his team play 93 minutes.

That extra-long game will take a bit out of them so the recovery, physically and mentally, will be a big part of how each team prepare for week two.

Burgess being suspended impacts quite significantly on Souths but after being in the Grand Final last year and Latrell, who missed the playoffs suspended last year, having that big-game experience giving them a slight edge.

Canberra Raiders (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

In the other semi, whether Mitchell Moses plays or not will more than likely decide who gets the victory in that one. If he’s out due to his concussion, I can see the Raiders upsetting Parramatta even though it’s at CommBank Stadium.

Ricky Stuart’s teams have a history of building momentum in the playoffs and I liked what I saw from them on Saturday night at AAMI Park with the way they took the contest to the Storm.

Melbourne are renowned for squeezing the life out of opponents but Canberra stood up to them and they seem like they can find a try when they need one.

The Eels have all the pressure on them and Brad Arthur’s playoff record is being questioned – they need to be full of energy and bringing the ball strongly out of the backfield.

Waqa Blake, after his nightmare dropping the high ball a few times against Penrith, shouldn’t feel too bad. They’ve done that to a few players the past couple of years and he has got the backing of his coach Brad Arthur to make amends this week.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

If you have just one player in your team has a shocker like that or gets sent off or makes a major blunder, it can tip you over that fine line between winning and losing. His fumbles, plus Moses going off when it was a five-point game, turned the momentum to the Panthers and they never looked back. 

There’s still a fair bit of skill going around in the teams, we should keep getting dryer surfaces which should mean the points totals remain high.

I don’t think there’s a clear favourite in either game this weekend. Penrith are the team to beat but the other five teams should all fancy their chances of going all the way. 





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