South Sydney primed to win NRL crown but entering final year of premiership window, claims Cooper Cronk
WRITTEN BY STEVE ORME
South Sydney have everything they need to win the 2021 NRL title but won’t recover from the scars if they fall short for a fourth-straight season, according to Cooper Cronk.
The Rabbitohs have added Queensland Origin forward Jai Arrow, veteran Penrith winger Josh Mansour and iconic playmaker Benji Marshall to the squad that made the preliminary finals in 2020.
It was the third-straight season the Bunnies have been knocked out in the penultimate round.
Many pundits are predicting South Sydney will go all the way this season in what will be legendary coach Wayne Bennett’s final campaign at the helm.
Cronk added his voice to the chorus of critics who believe the Rabbitohs are genuine premiership contenders but warned another preliminary final exit could do irreparable damage to the current squad.
“They’re cherry ripe, the Bunnies are cherry ripe for the premiership,” Cronk told Fox League .
“I don’t want to put too much pressure, because if Wayne Bennett leaves he doesn’t have a great history of leaving clubs in good stead after he’s gone.
“So for me, this is the only year the Bunnies can win because going forward if (Damien) Cook, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker, that would mean they’ve failed in four prelim finals and that’s quite scarring, that can haunt players if you don’t get to the top of the mountain.
“I think Souths are cherry ripe and I think Wayne Bennett knows it, he’s done his think in the Origin last year and they will be cracking the whips when it’s needed.”
There were promising early signs for Rabbitohs fans in Saturday’s 10-10 draw between the Indigenous and Maori All Stars.
Latrell Mitchell, playing his first game since suffering a season-ending hamstring injury six months ago, set up Alex Johnston’s 64th-minute try for the Indigenous side.
Meanwhile, Marshall, who signed a one-year deal with the Bunnies this month, was among the best performers for the Maori side.
“It’s obviously great to have a guy like Latrell fully fit and playing the way he does,” Indigenous captain and Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker said.
“I think he showed in glimpses out there what he’s capable of and you can just sense a bit of excitement in the air and we get to play with him all year.
“We’re quite lucky to have a guy like him and I thought Benji was great too on the other side of the field and AJ (Johnston) as well, so exciting times.”