The Bunnies have won their fifth Charity Shield in a row by defeating the Dragons 36-24 on Saturday Night.
The contest was a back and forth affair but ultimately the Rabbitohs just had too much strike power out wide for the Dragons’ young stars to deal with.
Corey Allan scored a hat-trick on the left wing further pushing his claims for a wing spot come round one.
Campell Graham, on the right wing, opened the scoring in the second set of the game, finishing off a slick back line movement by the red and greens.
With Greg Inglis on track for a round one return, Bennett has two major decisions to make as to the makeup of his back five.
Having lost 2018 top try scorer Robert Jennings to salary cap pressure, and ultimately the Tigers, Bennett has two vacant wing spots to fill from Graham, Burns and Allen.
There’s also a chance that Johnston may shift onto the wing with Inglis returning to the number one role. I’d assume this would see Burns remain in the centres.
Then there’s an outside chance of Burns and Inglis playing centres with Gagai moving to the wing where he has had such success at Origin and international level.
Boy, sounds like a terrible set up for poor Bennett.
I’m going to lose any argument as to why the way I would run the Souths back against that of the guy with seven premiership rings but I really think Johnston looks good in the one.
Inglis is a magnificent player and has had an incredible career at every level of the game. That said, he lacks the speed, footwork and I’d say ball playing ability of the much younger and quicker Johnston.
Inglis would be required to take a lot of unprotected hits while catching and returning the ball. I think he’s earned the right to pick and choose his time to search for the ball. Let the kid take the big hits.
This would reunite the centre pairing that took the Bunnies within one game of a Grand Final in 2018 with Gagai and Inglis.
Truthfully there aren’t many better centre pairings in the NRL than the one boasted by the Bunnies’ all Origin pairing. Maybe the Roosters. The Sharks if both players fire. Maybe the Broncos.
Personally I’d take the Bunnies’ pairing over anyone other than the tri-colours.
Then you have three very talented youngsters fighting for two wing spots outside the Kangaroos representatives.
Graham looks set for one spot. He is an absolute freak in stature. He’s only 19 years of age but at almost two metres tall and weighting in at just under 100 kilos, this kid is scary.
He’s played 21 times for the Bunnies, scoring six tries, but I expect him to more than double that tally just this season.
Jennings was made to look like a world beater on the left edge for the Bunnies in 2018. He scored 19 tries and wrapped up a pretty handy deal for himself to play centre or wing for the Tigers.
On the other wing you either have Burns or Allan.
Allan’s three try effort on his Bunnies debut against the Dragons will have plenty of fans hoping to see his name on the round one team sheet.
The former Bronco played fullback for the Prime Minister’s XIII against PNG before even playing an NRL game, the first player to do so. He scored during that game and from the Peter Beattie live stream looked to have a handy game.
Allen has stated his desire to chase the Bunnies’ number one jumper but will surely make his debut on the wing. Whether that comes in round one or he has to bide his time is the discussion.
Burns looks to have the inside run at this stage.
There were even rumours of Burns training at centres inside Gagai. I’m not sure how much weight are in those pictures as they may have just been running drills.
Burns, at 22, is the senior of the three options in terms of age. He has five tries from his 15 games.
At 6ft1 and 98 kilos he’s slightly shorter than Graham but boasts a larger frame.
I don’t really see a bad option here with any two of the three looking likely to have huge seasons. Who knows, perhaps all three will play big roles across the long season.
With Inglis and Gagai looking at Origin duty there may be a game where all three play and create combos of their own.
Either way, not a bad headache to have for the new Bunnies coach.
Wayne Bennett said on Saturday in the press conference that he can’t see Allen being there in round one. Knowing the master coach, you can pretty much guarantee he’s right there in the running.