2023 NRL: South Sydney Rabbitohs Season Review

Shannon Meyer reviews the 2023 Season of the South Sydney Rabbitohs where they finished ninth on the ladder.

Club Stats

Wins: 12
Losses: 12
Most Tries: Alex Johnston, 21
Most Points: Latrell Mitchell, 143
Club Player of the Year: Campbell Graham

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Souths Sydney’s Season Implodes as They Miss the Finals

It was a tale of two seasons for South Sydney in 2023: the first was from Round 1 to Round 11, where they led the competition after the 11th round (eight wins and three losses) and were on a six-game winning run – which featured victories over all of the final top three for the season, including a rare win over bogey side Melbourne. The second saw Souths go on to win just four of their remaining 13 games and missed the finals after a last round loss to arch rivals the Roosters for added salt. In fact, if the table was re-calculated from Round 12, the Rabbitohs would have been 12th.

South Sydney were looking good in that first part of the season, not only leading the competition but premiership favourites for a number of weeks, and in Campbell Graham they had the best centre in the competition, and their superstars Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were on fire in that six-game winning run. Graham was overlooked for a starting role in the NSW State of Origin team for Game 1, selected as 18th Man, but he withdrew due to injury, and things weren’t quite the same from that point. Much like Souths.

It wasn’t all bad after Round 11: the Rabbitohs’ 28-6 win in Auckland over the high-flying Warriors was as dominant a win as they had all season in terribly wet conditions, with Walker starring again, fresh from his successful effort for NSW in their Game 3 win. At that stage they were still seventh. But they went on to lose five of their last seven games, including a 36-32 loss to the Bulldogs. which saw the alarm bells ringing.

The season ended with rumours of player unrest, with further rumours that Mitchell and Walker were getting special treatment, which led to a frank discussion with assistant coach and club legend Sam Burgess, where the end result was Burgess announcing he was leaving the club to coach Warrington in England. In the end, no one at the club seemed happy, and nor should they have been after throwing away their season.

The blame game may well continue into 2024, with Jason Demetriou losing most of his 2022 credits, he needs to lift the Rabbitohs in the new season. Some point to Lachlan Ilias going backwards in 2023, and while it wasn’t fully blown second season syndrome, he certainly was less impressive at the end of 2023 compared to the end of 2022. The pending arrival of Jack Wighton raises more questions than answers, including consistency of long-term contracts to older players, with reference to Adam Reynolds.

No surprises with Alex Johnston topping the try scoring for the Rabbitohs in 2023, but his 21 tries scored was down on the 30 tries scored in both 2021 and 2022. The winger topped the line breaks for South Sydney too with 31, but again it was down on the 41 in 2022 where Johnston was the NRL leader.

Graham was either first or second for a variety of attacking stats – Run Metres, Post Contact Metres, Tackle Breaks, and Line Breaks. Mitchell was first for Tackle Breaks with 96: 28 more than Graham.

Damien Cook made over 1,000 tackles for the season, which was the fourth highest of all NRL players in 2023. Captain Cameron Murray averaged over a penalty a game in 2023.

Pre/Post Round 11 Stats

Much has been made of the Rabbitohs’ decline after leading the competition after Round 11, and the stats below prove it on the whole.

For most stats the post Round 11 figures were worse. Interestingly the points scored average per game was within one point, but the points against per game doubled.

Key Player Stats

Most Try Assists: 24, Cody Walker
Most Line-breaks: 30, Alex Johnston
Most Run Metres: 2,537, Campbell Graham
Most Post Contact Metres: 893, Campbell Graham
Most Tackles: 1,014, Damien Cook
Most Errors: 26, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston

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