The move to the Broncos has really freshened him up. It can happen with players. He looks like he’s got a little bit of extra responsibility in Brisbane, a few new surroundings and new players ... it’s all adding up to him elevating his game beyond 2021, when the Rabbitohs made the grand final.
I’ve been watching him closely and he is playing on the ball a lot more than he did at Souths, where he had to share playmaking duties with Cody Walker. He’s almost on the ball nearly every play. That’s rare for teams these days because usually the lock does a lot of the first receiving.
But the thing I’ve been most impressed with: he’s just playing so tough. Add that to the fact he’s making the players around him better, and I think it’s easy to see why the Broncos moved mountains to get him.
Lachlan Ilias, the 21-year-old the Rabbitohs put their faith in when letting Reynolds go, has blown me away this year.
I didn’t know much about Lachlan before the comp started. I was impressed with him the first couple of games, but every game I watch him he improves.
The thing that is really surprising is he’s such a big body for a No.7. I didn’t realise how big he was, and you can see that in the way he defends.
Just watch the way he goes to the line in attack. Ideally, you want your chest and shoulders to be facing down the field. When you face sideways you’re dragging defenders onto your outside players. But because he plays so straight it holds the defenders and creates room for the guys on the outside.
I think Ilias is a future rep player. I don’t think he’ll go past Nathan Cleary, but I can’t wait to see him going at Cleary and Mitchell Moses for the next six to eight years.
The Rabbitohs have the best back row in the NRL; they all just complement each other.
Cameron Murray is an out-and-out freak and without doubt I think he’ll captain Australia one day. Keaon Koloamatangi understands his game a lot better. He’s running the right angles and he looks really fit this year. And you know what you’re going to get with Jai Arrow. When those three are playing together they’ll be so hard to beat.
I look at the teams on paper and I think the Rabbitohs have a big advantage in the forwards, especially with Payne Haas being out, but the Broncos have an advantage in the outside backs.
Gorden Tallis always used to say to me, ‘forwards win big games and backs decide by how much’. I think it’s advantage Souths, then.
Having said that, I’ve been really impressed with Brisbane this year. Herbie Farnworth has taken his game to a whole new level while Pat Carrigan, Tom Flegler and Rhys Kennedy give them size through the middle.
In the next year or two if they can find a world-class No.6 and find stability at dummy-half, and then possibly recruit a fullback, they’re a top-four team and even a premiership threat. Cameron Munster? If they can snare him, then look out.
But I think the big plus for the Rabbitohs will be the speed of Damien Cook from dummy-half; he can really feed off that dominance in the middle of the field. This game will be pretty close for 60 minutes, but I think Souths will come over the top of them.
JOEY’S TIP: Rabbitohs by 12
FIRST TRY-SCORER: Damien Cook
MAN OF THE MATCH: Damien Cook
Story by Andrew Johns, The Sydney Morning Herald
Story first published on The Sydney Morning Herald