In his six seasons of first grade, Tom Symonds has played centre, five-eighth, second row, lock, and even prop, but it is only this season that he has found positional stability in the back row. Since missing six of the first eight games, the 25-year-old has played all 16 since with starts in the last eight.
Glenn Stewart’s injury has left a giant hole, but the former Rooster has earned his spot up against stiff competition from Justin Horo, Dunamis Lui and Jesse Sene-Lefao. His star is clearly rising and the pain of losing the 2013 Grand Final to his former club should drive him to new heights as Manly enters its tenth straight finals series.
The Bondi junior has been in great form this season, and even greater form the last month. He scored a double against Penrith including the last gasp winner in front of a delirious packed house. Wouldn’t he sorely love replicate the deed this Friday?
Standing in his way is one Samuel Burgess. He was phenomenal in round 22, finishing with 34 tackles, two line breaks, four tackle breaks, one try, and a season-high 22 runs for 231 run metres.
Comparatively, Symonds completed 18 tackles (2 missed), 1 tackle break, 69 run metres and 2 errors. It was a gutsy effort but the Rabbitohs were too strong, pummelling Manly’s forwards into submission.
Across the season, Dewsbury-born Burgess is averaging a mammoth 158.6 run metres (v 137.8 last season) and 34.7 tackles (v 29.8). The extra defensive work means he’s making fewer line breaks and tackle breaks but with more offloads, fewer missed tackles and marginally fewer errors, Michael Maguire won’t be complaining too much.
The 25-year-old tops the comp for hitups (449), is second for offloads (52), and leads his side for tackles (799). He’s also scored more tries this year (10) than any previous Super League or NRL season. It is Burgess’ ability to mow down tired opponents that makes him so deadly, proof of which is that half of his tries have come in the ten minutes before half or full time.
Symonds and his cohorts cannot be overawed by Burgess, his brothers or Souths’ dominant forward pack if they hope to win. Equally, Souths must remember that it was Symonds who sealed victory in the 2013 Preliminary Final with a well-timed chargedown and dash to the line. Bring it on!