South Sydney primed to win NRL crown but entering final year of premiership window, claims Cooper Cronk

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.”

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LEGENDS TIP RABBITOHS FOR BIG YEAR IN BENNETT’S FAREWELL.

Mal Meninga, Cooper Cronk and Braith Anasta have high hopes for the Rabbitohs on the back of some promising signs by their key men in the All Stars clash.

Defence dominated for much of the contest, but it was the Souths connection of Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston that got the Indigenous All Stars back in the game with the crucial second half try.

“12 months on he’s playing a position that he’s still not quite used to yet but as he develops and gets opportunities to play No.1 for 80 minutes he’ll get better,” Meninga said of Mitchell. “He was pretty impressive when he went to left centre though. He’s got great hands and silky skills with a kick for Alex Johnston’s try.”

Anasta called for Mitchell’s Origin exile to come to an end this season.

“He looked fit, he looked good,” he added.

“He can get fitter, he’s obviously had that hamstring injury and he’ll get fitter, he’ll get game fit. Like Mal said he looked great in the centres and I think he could end up in the centres for NSW.

“I believe he comes back into that fold this year and they really need him in there. Latrell’s one of the most talented – if not the most talented – and skilful player in the competition when he’s at his best.

“He’s six foot four and 104 kilos, he’s lethal and I think we need him in that NSW side.”

Cronk believes Mitchell has the potential to be one of the best fullbacks in the game, but he can’t be compared to players like Tedesco and Trbojevic because he plays a different style.

“He’s a beacon for the media to talk and compliment or criticise based on his performance but the influence of Wayne Bennett is the key for him because at the end of the day Wayne forces you to play to your strengths,” Cronk said.

“Latrell Mitchell is not going to be Tom Trbojevic or James Tedesco where they’re up over 250 metres.

“His touch is to set up tries, his touch is to score tries. That combination between himself and Cody Walker could be the best in the comp this year.”

NRL 2021: All Stars, what we learned, Indigenous All Stars vs Maori All Stars, videos, scores, updates, Latrell Mitchell, Benji Marshall | Fox Sports

I am curious as to what determines a premiership window.

Is it an ageing player list and Souths do not qualify if that is the case.

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Belief and confidence across the playing group.
The window only stays open as long as the players want and believe it. Lose again and the PF can become an omen.

Agreed but also a premiership window has a lot to do with the roster, balanced rosters with the right amount of experience, strike, youth etc means you’re in a premiership window.

Having your cap sorted and coaching staff sorted all play a part. Can’t win a ring with your spine being past it or full of youth and no experience. Can’t win a ring with a strong backline but a below average pack.

We have an ageing spine which means if we don’t win it soon we’ll be in a building phase with youthful spine players unless we go out and recruit cream of the crop players like we’ve seen Easts do.

We are in a premiership window because we have an extremely balanced side with all the weapons it needs across the park to go all the way We have a stable coaching staff and our cap is in order we aren’t in a re building phase like Wests or Dogs.

If we fall short again this year unless we go out and recruit some really good players in the spine particularly 6,7,9 it’ll be a while before we get to the premiership window again, if we choose to bleed guys like Taaffe and Josh Cook it’ll take them a few years to mature into first graders capable of winning titles.

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Sounds like Cronk does watch lower grades

I agree it has to be this season and it hinges firstly on having our spine intact and firing heading into the finals and second locking up a top 4 spot on the ladder. That is the key and having WB at the helm for this last shot before he moves on really highlights the fact that the window is open.
We may not get a better shot than what we face right now.

And if wayne stays on at ssfc as a coaching director or recruitment manager or football manager or…
What will the experts in the media say then.
The opinions of cronk and meninga mean sweet fuck all because they are pedalling there own agendas way before we they would offer an HONEST appraisal of our great club. More likely to try and destabilise us than any thing else. All the bullshit in the nrl media is pushing the its ours to lose barrow. Meanwhile all hoping that we fail.

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It’s all about finishing top 4 and winning in the first week to get the week off. Fail to do that and the task becomes very very tough.

Couldn’t give a toss what Cronk thinks. Another mouthpiece for Nick.

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Agree. Too much to say and has a credibility problem due to his connection to Eastern Suburbs and the car salesman.
Another “fuck him!”

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This wanker tipped his Rorter’s to win in 2021. Don’t believe anything in his comments.

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Many tipped the Loosters to win in 2021

Melbourne and the Roosters always have a window. I’d like to think we have been the next best over the last decade or so since Madge took over.

I think in the last ten years our window has been well and truly opened with 16 and 17 the major disappointments because IMO we still had a quality 17 but got smashed with injury and Coach and players not in cohesion.

Our goal was to be a top 4 side every year and after Bennett goes there should be no difference in thinking.

7 from the last 9 finals
5 top 4s 6 prelim finals
1 Gf
1 premiership

Hopefully after this year that could read
8 from 10 finals
6 top 4s 7 prelim finals
2 GFs
2 premierships.

Hopefully when our window does eventually close Cronks hands will be underneath it.

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We don’t need all this bullshit talk, I’m hoping Bennett blocks out the noise and lets the squad know the truth, that we are no better than the team tipped for the spoon come round one.

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Well, we’re undefeated so far in 2021!

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So much pressure and expectations when people say window closing.
Other clubs have the window open all the time. Why not us.
Three PF will do their head in. I don’t get that.
I’d much rather be top 3 than bottom 3.
I think it’s outside noise. The team and us should just enjoy the year and tune out outside agendas.

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Agree. Glass have full or half empty.
Most teams would kill to have their teams in as many finals games as what we have - up there with the Roarters and Storm. Only missed 2 years since 2012 which is a great standard.
We are one level away from consistent GF appearances, which given the depth and player union, is coming through.

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Fucktard Gronk putting the pressure on Souths so it takes all the focus off Greedy Joe. Expect to see more of this shit from other journo nob gobblers.

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A classic example of how money talks.

Played all his career for Melbourne except for a couple of season but well & truely in the Politis stable…

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