What you need to know - Round 21
Get ready for Friday night's top of the table clash with what you need to know.
The Melbourne Effect
It is clear. The Melbourne influence on South Sydney is a big one. Of the 33 players on the Rabbitohs NRL list this season, nine have come through the Melbourne Storm system. Greg Inglis, Dean Britt, Billy Britain, Cody Walker, Hymel Hunt, Richard Kennar, Jesse Artahrs, Mark Nicholls and Vincent Leuluai all have spent time in Melbourne at Storm.
Of those nine, only Walker and Hunt will line-up on Friday night. Will they have the last laugh? Time will tell.
The slow burn
The winner of Friday night's clash will entrench themselves inside the top four and stake their claim for not only a double chance come finals time but also a home final.
Melbourne's journey to the top so far in 2018 has been a gradual climb since Round 5. Craig Bellamy's side were 9th following their loss to the Tigers and have climbed the ladder since – moving into the top four at Round 16 before nailing down top spot the last two weeks.
South Sydney have followed a similar path to the pointy end of the table this season. The Rabbitohs sat 14th on the ladder after dropping their first two games of the season however nine consecutive wins between Round 9 and 18 propelled them into the top four.
In addition to the heavy Melbourne influence running through the Rabbitohs playing group sits Anthony Seibold, South Sydney head coach. Seibold spent three seasons at Storm, impressing during his time down south as the Club's U20 Thunderbolts and then as Development Coach with the NRL side.
He will bring a rare insight into the Storm game plan on Friday night and will be looking to win the tactical battle against his former mentor Craig Bellamy. Seibold has done nothing short of a brilliant job in charge of South Sydney this year, taking his side to a 14-5 record to sit second on the table and two games inside the top four.
New wing combination
Suliasi Vunivalu will miss just his third match in 24 months on Friday night with the winger ruled out after travelling home to Fiji to attend the funerals of two close friends.
Vunivalu missed just one game in 2017 and was absent from Storm's ANZAC Day win earlier this year, however aside from that has been a mainstay on the Melbourne right wing. His absence will pave the way for a new wing combination against the Rabbitohs with Justin Olam set to play his second NRL match