Tough job ahead for Souths coach
By Billy Freeman
Shaun McRae is taking baby steps.
McRae was one of the most successful coaches of recent years in England, winning both the Super League championship and the Challenge Cup during a nine year stint with St Helens, Hull and Gateshead.
But he left those heady days behind him when he agreed to take on the job as coach of South Sydney, NRL wooden spooners for the past two years.
It's going to be a tough job.
After a three-year stretch yielding only 13 wins, there is no talk of a dramatic revival.
The only aim is to get better.
Both McRae and captain Bryan Fletcher say that getting off the bottom of the table is imperative this season.
The club's hardcore and demanding fans are getting restless, not to mention the players.
McRae's friend Shane Richardson has brought off field stability to the club since his arrival as chief executive last year.
But McRae has warned people not to expect on field miracles and agrees he faces a daunting task in his first season at the helm.
"What we need to do is probably not talk so much about the broader objective, but talk about the smaller aims on a weekly basis," McRae said.
"We don't talk about winning trophies (and) I don't even talk about playoffs.
"I don't walk away from the fact that the aspiration of these players, of this club, is to make the playoffs, but that would be a meteoric change of fortune, if you go from bottom of the table to making the playoffs in one year.
"I'm not saying it can't happen, but we've got to be realists in what we're doing and our goal is to improve our performances on a weekly basis, be more consistent in what we do and let the table take care of itself."
Fletcher, who has won a premiership and played State of Origin and Test football, is tired of Souths being regarded as the competition easybeats.
For someone who spent so long in a winning culture at the Sydney Roosters, Souths' continual failure to make an impact on the competition cuts deep.
He said the arrival and departure of former coaches Craig Coleman and Paul Langmack could not be blamed for Souths' on-field woes, nor could the numerous boardroom spats.
"We can make all the excuses in the world we've had three different coaches in three years now, we've had all the drama with the board and all that sort of rubbish," Fletcher said.
"But this year, we've trained well.
"Fans are just sick and tired, and our players are just sick and tired, of hearing about Souths, that they've got the wooden spoon again.
"Souths have to get off the bottom of the table and I'm confident that we will."
The Rabbitohs' two major on-field signings former Test winger Shannon Hegarty and rugged prop Peter Cusack - both come from the Roosters.
Cusack joins a forward pack where, alongside fellow experienced hands Fletcher, Ashley Harrison and Shane Walker, he'll be expected to take a leading role.