South Sydney were one of the true heavyweights in the 2019 title race with the most regular season wins of any side, but they narrowly missed the decider at the final hurdle in a year that certainly had the potential for ultimate success.
The Rabbitohs also produced the best away record in the competition (7-4), which went a long way to securing a vital top-two spot before earning a week off in the finals, but a dominant season came undone against a confident Wentworthville side who went on to play Newtown in the Grand Final.
However, the men in red and green were undoubtedly the most consistent week-to-week performers in 2019, making their long-awaited return - under the South Sydney banner - to the NSWRL’s premier competition for the first time since 2006.
Their highlight moment
Round 19 v St George Illawarra - 25-22 W
HIGHLIGHTS | St George Illawarra v South Sydney - Rd 19
In a battle of the teams to beat in 2019, the Rabbitohs’ Round 19 clash with the Red V was their second win in as many games against the minor premiers, which only reinforced their title credentials on approach to the finals.
South Sydney were under pressure early in the contest as the Dragons flew out of the blocks with two quick-fire tries. The Rabbitohs hit back in the 23rd minute through winger Mawene Hiroti, although it was the Dragons who scored one more before the break for a 16-4 lead.
The Rabbitohs needed to produce a memorable turnaround to secure victory, and three unanswered tries in the 2nd half put them six points in front with 20 minutes remaining.
The Dragons may have levelled the scores just 5 minutes later, but a composed Blake Taaffe kicked a 74th-minute field goal to put the visitors back in the lead before they held strong for the win.
Simply their best
The South Sydney captain led by example as arguably the best player of 2019, and he fittingly earned the competition’s highest honour when he was named the Canterbury Cup NSW Player of the Year at the Brad Fittler Medal ceremony.
Brittain was the central figure in a potent spine for the Rabbitohs alongside playmakers Connor Tracey and Blake Taaffe, and fullback Corey Allan.
Brittain’s season-long numbers only prove his importance to the South Sydney line-up and their success in 2019, finishing third in the competition for try-assists (15), second in line-break assists (17) and second in tackles (784).
Room for improvement
One of the keys to the Rabbitohs’ exceptional form in 2019 was their structure and efficiency in attack, but it is their second-phase play that could see more improvement to go one step further next season.
South Sydney finished last in the competition for offloads (130), and if the Rabbitohs can implement more unstructured elements into their attacking game, they could easily cause much more trouble for opposition defences in 2020.
Soward's season grading
They really fizzled out and i thought they had the team that could have won the competition. There's still some learning for their younger guys and have a handful of players who are super talented but just couldn't get it done in the big games.
They will be better for the experience and if they can maintain a similiar squad in 2020 they'll be tough to beat once again.
This season grading is the opinion of Jamie Soward, based purely on performance factors throughout the 2019 season, and does not nessecarily reflect the views of NSWRL.