Quality quintet: From left, Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds, John Sutton, Issac Luke, and Sam Burgess. Photo: Getty Images, Quentin Jones Adam Reynolds Photo: Anthony Johnson
Melbourne built an empire around the Big Three. Now South Sydney are on the verge of creating a dynasty of their own with the Big Five.
In Greg Inglis, John Sutton, Issac Luke, Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds, the Rabbitohs have invested in their future. They have all been tied up on long-term deals and will be the cornerstone of the club for the next five years.
Between them they have created more linebreak assists than the 21 players Parramatta have used this season. Inglis has broken out of more tackles than Melbourne’s big three combined, and Issac Luke has accumulated the most runs of any hooker in the competition.
While the “Big Five” tag doesn’t sit well with South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson, he admitted they have the core of a team that can be successful for years to come.
“It’s our plan and strategy to build a team around them,” Richardson said. “We’ve locked them up long term and we started work on that last year. We’re in a good space so far. All major players are locked up for the long term.”
Inglis and Sutton have committed to the end of 2017, Burgess until the end of 2016, and Reynolds and Luke until the end of 2015. It was a ploy from the club to lock up their most valuable assets before they achieved success and become unaffordable as a package under the salary cap.
“We did it when I was at Penrith as well,” Richardson said. “When we were on the bottom of the ladder we secured players on long-term deals that we thought we could build a club around and we ended up winning a premiership. Same at Cronulla, we recruited and signed young blokes like Matty Rogers and David Peachey and those type of players. We signed them early before we had success and took a punt on them that they would be successful – and it worked pretty well for us.”
While Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk are the heart and soul of the Storm, they haven’t done it all on their own.
Craig Bellamy has an incredible ability to turn average footballers into vital cogs in a well-oiled machine, a trait Souths coach Michael Maguire has picked up.
While it’s the big five who come up with the big plays for the Rabbitohs, Maguire hasn’t neglected the rest of the team, who are thriving under his tutelage.
Former Bulldogs winger Bryson Goodwin has gone to a new level this season playing in the centres under Maguire, while players like Chris McQueen, Dave Tyrrell, Andrew Everingham and Jason Clark continue to go from strength to strength under Maguire’s watch.
“The old theory that you need a good nine, six, seven and one – we’re at a really good space there with those positions,” Richardson said. “But we also have so many other good players around them. Luke came through with us as a 17-year-old and Reynolds and Sutton came through with us as juniors.
“With Sam and the Burgess brothers in general, we see them here for the long term. It was always in my sights, that once we had Sam locked up, we’d get the family together because they are a quality group of people. That’s what you need when you are building a culture at a club, you make sure you get quality people together.”
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