Fantastic early start didn't mean much for troubled rabbits

ADMITTEDLY it was just one week into season 2014, but after the Rabbitohs pulled down the pants of the NRL premiers they became the flavour of the month. And rightly so.

Their 20-point demolition of the Roosters, who had won the World Club Challenge just two weeks earlier, was as convincing as it possibly could be.

The bookies started twiddling with their odds, and the punters didn't twiddle their thumbs.

After that one win the Rabbitohs jumped to equal premiership favouritism.

Then the balloon burst. While successive losses to the Sea Eagles and Tigers have not exactly sent them spiralling out of contention, a number of ancillary issues have not endeared the Rabbitohs to the punters, or to that army of fans that consider them their second team.

In recent years the Bunnies have become the NRL pin-up boys.

As a foundation club booted out of the competition for two seasons before people power had them reinstated in 2002, it seemed most in rugby league had a soft spot for Souths.

And when Russell Crowe rode in on his white steed in 2007, the oldest club suddenly became the most glamorous.

Not only did they start attracting high-profile fans, but big-name players jumped on board as well.

The premiership that had eluded the Rabbitohs since 1971 was seemingly just around the corner.

But alas, that has not happened. And if murmurs emanating from varying sources are anywhere near the mark, it may still be a way off.

In their past two losses the Rabbits have flummoxed us all.

They have lacked their customary cohesion and coolness under pressure and - most alarmingly - they literally fell apart when Greg Inglis left the field on Friday night.

Rumours have been rife for some time that Inglis and glamour boy Sam Burgess are not the best of mates.

The ill feeling was supposedly sparked during the finals last season when Burgess elected to miss a vital training session in favour of a social occasion invite.

And while Sam and his brothers - well, George anyway - are vital for the Rabbitohs to gain control in the middle, their ill-discipline is starting to grate on their teammates.

Their bully-boy tactics are firing up the opposition which has lifted in successive weeks for unexpected victories.

Worse still is the shoulder injury to dynamic hooker Issac Luke. So valuable is he to the Rabbitohs that his absence would be felt just as hard as that of Inglis or Burgess.

It was originally feared that Luke would miss the season but coach Michael Maguire revealed late yesterday that while the Kiwi international would need surgery, he would only be sidelined for between four and 10 weeks.

But what fans need to know is that Hollywood-type factions don't exist at Redfern. The climb back to form will be tough enough without in-house dissention.

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