Shannon Meyer reviews the 2022 Season of the Rabbitohs where they finished seventh on the ladder and were knocked out in the preliminary finals.
Most Tries: Alex Johnston (30)
Most Points: Latrell Mitchell (152)
Club Player of the Year: Tevita Tatola
Another Preliminary Final a Good Pass Mark After Key Departures
South Sydney Rabbitohs avoided the usual post Wayne Bennett apocalypse and the exit of star halfback Adam Reynolds to make yet another Preliminary Final – a fifth in a row (and fourth exit). A decent effort from newly promoted coach Jason Demetriou, as this is only the second time a club has made the finals within three years of a Wayne Bennett departure.
The other big story heading into 2022 was the exit of one of the Rabbitohs’ favourite sons Adam Reynolds to the Broncos. Halfway through the season it looked like the Broncos got the better deal as Reynolds was leading Brisbane to the top four and Lachlan Ilias was subbed before half time in Souths’ dreadful loss to the Dragons. But by year’s end you could see the progress in Ilias, whose running game and defence were developing well, and the end result of the move was everybody involved sort-of won.
There may be mocking tones of another Preliminary Final exit, but Souths did well to make it that far. South Sydney only finished the regular season seventh, and you could argue weren’t great at times during the season. They faced an in-form Roosters in the first week of the finals and the classic grudge match ended in seven sinbins and a Souths win, and they thoroughly outplayed the Sharks the following week. The Rabbitohs even had the audacity to lead Penrith 12-0 in the preliminary final before tries just before half time killed their momentum.
There was plenty to like about South Sydney in 2022. One of rugby league’s most likable players Alex Johnston scored 30 tries again, and his heading for the all-time try scoring record which he deserves. But he isn’t just a try scorer, he led the NRL in line breaks (41 and 27% of Souths line breaks) in 2022 which was a full 11 more than the next best. And you could argue the attack feeding him at Souths wasn’t as good this season.
The club’s player of the year Tevita Tatola and Keaon Koloamatangi were the outstanding forwards for the Rabbitohs in 2022 – Tatola charging through the middle and Koloamatangi causing more mischief out wide. Both players were in the top 25 for metres gained in 2022 and top 20 for post contact metres. Koloamatangi was in the top two for second rowers for metres gained. Cameron Murray was also one of Souths best forwards with his attacking game developing on top of his incredible consistency everywhere else.
As for the superstars of the side – Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Damien Cook they had a mixed bag in 2022. Latrell Mitchell missed a large chunk of the season through injury, but he did light South Sydney up on many occasions after his return, the Roosters week one finals game being an example, but couldn’t get into that crucial final game against Penrith. Cody Walker put on masterclasses at times in 2022, but he didn’t start the season well and looked a little lost without Adam Reynolds and was easy to agitate on the field at times which ultimately led to a drop in performance. Damien Cook still ended up doing a great job for the Rabbitohs in 2022, but there were times when he looked down on his best. It was one of those seasons that never full came together but was still successful none-the-less.
Ultimately Souths fans should be satisfied with an exit in the second last week of the finals and were competitive against a team for a generation. Was it over-achievement in 2022? We will see what 2023 brings with Lachlan Ilias having a solid first season under his belt, and if Jason Demetriou can get the best from Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker all season long.
NothingButLeague Rabbitohs Player of 2022: Latrell Mitchell (15)Embed from Getty Images
Try Assists: 20
Tackle Bursts: 78
Other Points: 13 Alex Johnston, Cameron Murray; 10 Damien Cook; 9 Cody Walker; 5 Lachlan Ilias; 4 Jai Arrow, Keaon Koloamatangi; 2 Richie Kennar; 1 Blake Taaffe.