THERE ARE NO EXCUSES FOR THE POWERHOUSE RABBITOHS, WRITES
Coach status: This is supposed to be Wayne Bennett’s last season with the Rabbitohs before he hands over the reigns to top assistant Jason Demetriou. But after two
straight trips to the preliminary final, plus an Origin series win that seemed impossible, would
anyone at Redfern complain if Bennett saddled up again?
Plenty of other clubs would jump at the chance to sign the six-time premiership winner and South Sydney’s premiership window is wide open. Demetriou is undoubtedly a first grade coach of the future and could be lost to the club if Bennett decides to stay but asking Bennett to move on has never worked out well for anybody – just ask the Broncos. What is their game plan, and how do they need to tweak: The Rabbitohs are in something of a strange spot. Three preliminary finals in a row is a fine achievement, but three preliminary final losses in a row is dangerously close to a hoodoo.
South Sydney look totally different to the side that went down to the Roosters in 2018 and have even changed a lot since their loss to the Raiders in 2019, but it’s time for them to get over the hump.
There are no more holes in the Rabbitohs’ roster, no more excuses for anything less than a premiership.
So long as injuries are kind, there is no reason South Sydney should not be in serious title contention from the jump next season.
How did they go in free agency: South Sydney made their biggest signing for 2021 before last season had even kicked off, with Queensland Origin forward Jai Arrow agreeing to join the club from the Titans.
The Rabbitohs weren’t skinny in the middle this season with Tom Burgess and Junior Tatola both improving and the club has a real find in Keaon Koloamatangi and a superstar in Cameron Murray.
But Arrow, who gives great yardage and has a wonderful offload and a strong defensive game, rounds out South Sydney’s pack nicely. With Damien Cook at hooker, a good day by the Rabbitohs forwards can make their attack almost unstoppable and with Arrow in red and green there should be few packs they can’t take down.
Jacob Host will compete for a spot at second row while Taane Milne fills out the backline depth.
Will development contract upgraded kids make an impact: Jaxson Paulo joined the Rabbitohs from the Titans mid-season last year and ended up playing 13 matches, including all three finals games. Earning a start in 2021 will be an accomplishment given the Rabbitohs’ backline depth, but Paulo proved he’s an NRL calibre player and is right in the frame to snag a spot on the right wing.
Brock Gardner has played little football in recent years due to injury but the Knights junior has a strong pedigree. The torrid backrower represented NSW Under 16s and has put on 8kg of muscle in the last year.
What players can they reinvent: Everything seems to happen to Latrell Mitchell, and it happens louder than it does to anybody else.
The fullback is a magnet for publicity, sometimes of his own doing but often times it’s out of his control.
His first season with South Sydney, and his first full year at fullback, was full of highs and lows and criticism and brilliance and everything else a player could fit into 12 months, but when the dust settled the truth was simple – Mitchell started poorly, but improved as the year went on and he gained a better feel for his new position.
Even in tough times, Mitchell’s passing was a strength of his play at fullback and for him, and Souths, to hit the next level they need to see more of the running game that made him so dangerous as a centre.
It started to come through in Mitchell’s play before a leg injury ended his year prematurely and it could be the final attacking touch for an already formidable South Sydney backline.
He doesn’t need reinvention, but if he can add this final piece there could be no stopping the Rabbitohs. Who takes the next step: Jaydn Su’A was a highly touted junior at the Broncos but was eventually superseded in the pecking order by David Fifita and lost his way before following Bennett to South Sydney.
After some tough times in 2019, Su’A improved out of sight in 2020 and by the end of the year he was the exact type of hard-nosed, brutally powerful backrower he’d always been predicted to be.
A Queensland Origin jersey was a just reward for the backrower and now there’s nothing stopping him from becoming one of the game’s better edge forwards. Keep a particular eye on his defence – Su’A is utterly without fear, and throws his body into collisions with no thought of self-preservation.
Fox Sports Lab’s Aaron Wallace says: If Souths can continue their attack from the back end of the season into the new year they may simply blast their way to a 22nd premiership.
From Round 15 onwards, the Rabbitohs averaged almost 35 points per game, even factoring in their almost inexplicable 26-16 loss to the Bulldogs.
Latrell Mitchell played only two of those games, and he had the second most try assists for the Rabbitohs all season – watch out!