Saying less paying off for in-form Souths
Ian McCullough
15:44 AEST Thu Aug 9 2012

Enjoying their best NRL season in 23 years, South Sydney have stolen a page from Canterbury coach Des Hasler's well-thumbed playbook as they build for Friday's mouth-watering clash with Manly.

Downplaying success and talking up the opposition has been turned into an art form by the two-time premiership-winning Hasler over the years.

It's a policy Rabbitohs mentor Michael Maguire has adopted this season - with his players under orders to not say anything that could be construed as over-confidence or getting ahead of themselves in the quest to end the club's 41-year premiership drought.

Evidently, it's working; the current Rabbitohs are enjoying their best season since the club's minor premiership win in 1989 and a win over the Sea Eagles can tighten their grip on a top-two position.

"I'll get in more trouble than you'll ever know if I answer that," one player said this week when asked if they were the real deal.

At 38, Maguire has carved out a reputation as one of the best young coaches in the game, having tasted success with English outfit Wigan in his first two years as a head coach.

Although he's not gone down the Wayne Bennett path of ordering his players to not talk about him, his fastidious planning and preparation for games has been evident in every facet of the club.

This professionalism has led to the line "we're taking each game as it comes and not getting ahead of ourselves" being trotted out with monotonous regularity.

But it's hard to argue it's not working. Souths have won six games in a row and shrugged aside the absence of Greg Inglis and Issac Luke through suspension to have long-suffering fans daring to dream.

"It's the fans' job to get excited and the media's job to talk us up and you guys (the media) are doing a great job," veteran back Matt King said this week, before trotting out the 'taking each game as it comes' mantra.

Luke returns for the Gosford encounter on Friday and Souths centre Dylan Farrell is delighted to see him back to face who he believes are still the team to beat.

"Issac is such an important player for us, and someone who we are going to need against Manly, that's for sure," Farrell told AAP.

"We're expecting probably our toughest game of the year up in Gosford.

"They're the premiers and have hit a bit of form with a tough win in North Queensland and we know how hard it's going to be against them."

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