Predicted Finish: 11th
Actual Finish: 12th
Best Performer: Angus Crichton
In a season where there weren’t a long list of highlights for fans wearing red and green, young Angus Crichton announced himself in a huge way. The future rep forward burst onto the scenes with a series of standout performances. Playing 22 games he scored seven tries, including a memorable hat-trick against the Titans in round 15.
He also made 10 line breaks, although it felt as though he was breaking the line with every run such was the force he ran with. At only 21 years of age, it is scary to think just how good the back rower will be. The Bunnies have a huge fight on their hands to keep a hold of their young gun with the Roosters and Sharks circling.
Season Highlight: 38-18 win in Round 2 over Manly
Best Signing: Dane Gagai
The Bunnies really needed to sign a marquee name after a horror season. In Gagai they got their man. The Queensland and Kangaroos star will slot straight into the centres at his new club and I’m very confident in saying the move will prove to be a positive for both player and club. Gagai struggled in Newcastle after being shifted across the backline as the Knights struggled for form combinations.
The over-reliance on the rep back also saw his performances affected. Now playing off the likes of Walker and Reynolds, and behind the likes of Burgess and Crichton, we should see plenty out of the centre in the coming years. Souths need a try-scoring outside back to help take the pressure off Johnston and Inglis. Gagai is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Inglis given time to heal physically and mentally: When Greg Inglis went down in the very first game of the season, a fair few pundits immediately wrote the Bunnies off. As strange as this is going to sound, it is arguable that the injury will turn out to be a positive for Inglis and therefore the club. It is reported that he had been playing injured for a few seasons now after staring at all levels of the game. His body finally gave in and he has taken a full season to rest it. The time off also allowed him the time to focus on his mental health after admitting to be struggling. Hopefully, Inglis returns in 2017 fresh of both body and mind. He deserves it.
Big Wins: Although the Bunnies never really factored in the final’s race, they did have some serious highlights in 2017. A 42-16 win over the Panthers goes to show that when this team clicks that they were very capable. They also recorded a 28-8 win over the Tigers, beat the Warriors 38-16 and thumped Manly at Lotto Land as mentioned above. It is just a shame that the Bunnies couldn’t replicate these kinds of performances with any regularity because, on their day, they’re really tough to beat.
New Direction: Despite some big wins, ultimately the Rabbits had a sad season. They struggled to keep pace with the big guns and thus dropped out of the finals race with weeks to run. Since their drought-breaking title win they have regressed in a big way. The over-reliance on Inglis and the Burgess brothers has been exposed, while Cody Walker suffered from playing multiple positions across the space of a month. Simply put, the Bunnies needed a change in direction. Title-winning coach Michael Maguire has moved on and Anthony Seibold has been named as his replacement. He is largely untested as a coach but comes with big wraps. The Bunnies needed someone with fresh ideas, and Siebold should provide that. A few clever signings haven’t hurt either.
Season Grading: D
Although the Bunnies only finished one place lower than I predicted, I still can’t help but think they underachieved. Burgess, Farah, Reynolds, Walker, Johnston. Teams containing that kind of talent should be in the finals race.
A season-ending injury to Inglis completely reshaped the season, but even so, 12th just isn’t good enough.
An F grading would have been too harsh considering the circumstances, but I don’t know too many Bunnies fans who were too happy with the performances across 26 rounds.
I am shocked, that just a few years after the greatest moment in the modern history of the club, Michael McGuire is no longer the coach of the famous club. Given that the news was greeted with such joy by fans on social media really highlights the state of the club though.
There’s a sense of a fresh start in 2018 with a new coach, a marquee signing, a young superstar and a refreshed Greg Inglis. Probably a good thing too, because there aren’t too many moments from 2017 that will want to live too long in the memories of Bunnies fans.