South Sydney are now outside the top eight, and although I still expect them to play finals footy this year, the position they find themselves in right now is no surprise given what’s unfolded over the last 12 months.
For me the big disappointment over the Adam Reynolds situation was that not only was he the heart and soul of the team, but he was also a local kid. He grew up there and all he wanted to do was play for Souths.
The fact he was forced out was a really bad message to send to young players in the area. He was only asking for about $700,000 a year, which I know is a lot of money, but it’s a bargain when you’re talking about good halfbacks in the NRL.
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His replacement, Lachlan Ilias, isn’t a Souths junior like Reynolds, but what’s he thinking? In five, six, seven years time, when he’s flying, does a younger guy come along and Ilias finds he’s moved aside for the next generation?
People wonder why there’s no loyalty in the game anymore, but it’s a two-way street. It has to work both ways. That was my biggest issue with what happened to Reynolds.
He’d just taken Souths to a grand final. We know how long it can take for a young halfback to develop into someone who can lead a team around the park. For Ilias to tell guys like Tom Burgess and Jai Arrow what to do and where to run, it takes a few years to reach that level.
I know it’s easy in hindsight, but I said it from the start it was the wrong call, and a horrible look for the club.
It’s so hard to find a quality halfback who can perform week-in, week-out in the NRL. When you’ve got one, like Souths had with Reynolds, you do everything you can to retain them.
The big thing for me is that I didn’t see Reynolds as an old player. He’s 31, not 34 or 35, it was hard to see how he didn’t still have a few good years left in him.
That said, Reynold’s absence isn’t the only reason Souths find themselves outside the top eight right now. Laterll Mitchell’s injury is a huge factor. It’s a massive loss. I know they got to a grand final last year without him, but his influence on matches is so big.
His combination on the left hand side of the field with Cody Walker is enormous. They’ve also lost Dane Gagai from last year.