Can Souths build legacy without slammin’ Sam?
IT HAS proven an Everest too tough for 21 previous climbers, but many believe that with a young, exciting roster and a coach of the future in Michael Maguire, NRL champion South Sydney can be the first team to go back-to-back since Brisbane in 1992-93.
It was 43 years between drinks before Maguire, an English band of brothers named Burgess and superstar Greg Inglis delivered the Redfern faithful their 21st premiership and first since 1971 with a 30-6 victory against the Bulldogs on Sunday night.
The victory helped Souths shake off the choker tag after preliminary finals exits in the previous two years, sparking emotional scenes that brought hardened footballers such as club greats John Sattler and Bob McCarthy to tears.
The question now is can the Rabbitohs go back-to-back without big Sammy Burgess who is heading back to England to play rugby for Bath?
The Clive Churchill medalist was inspirational, playing all but 15 seconds of a punishing grand final with a fractured cheekbone, running for 225m and making 35 tackles.
The effort drove his teammates on, just as it did all those years back when captain Sattler played most of the 1970 grand final with a badly shattered jaw, refusing to let on how bad his injury was until well after the Rabbitohs' famous victory.
Burgess underwent surgery hours after the game, cutting short his grand final celebrations with his brothers, George, Tom and Luke.
Another hard man, Ben Te'o (rugby) is also leaving the Rabbitohs' fold, while exciting hooker Apisai Koroisau is headed to Penrith and veteran winger Lote Tuqiri is still weighing up his future.
But with the likes of up-and-coming halves Luke Keary and Adam Reynolds, try-scoring sensation Alex Johnston, who has crossed the stripe 21 times this season, electrifying centre Dylan Walker and Inglis, Maguire has the ingredients of a team that will be together for some time.
History shows it is not as easy to win successive premierships in the modern era as it was back in the early days, however. In fact Souths won the competition's first grand final in 1908 and backed up again in 1909.
The foundation club is the most successful NRL side at defending a premiership, having done it six times in 106 years.
The feat was achieved 12 times between 1908 and 1956 when the mighty St George Dragons ripped off a world record 11 premierships in-a-row.
Since then it has been achieved only seven times: Souths (1970-71), Manly (1971-72) Easts (1974-75), Parramatta who won in 1981-82-83, Canterbury (1984-85), Canberra (1989-90) and the last time 21 years ago by Brisbane.
Despite those stats, bookmakers have reported heavy support for Souths to repeat the dose in 2015, just hours after their drought-breaking grand final victory.
"Whether it's emotional early money coming for Souths or not remains to be seen, but they are the only team punters wanted to back this morning with more money for them that the other 15 teams combined," sportsbet.com.au's Shaun Anderson told APN.