After breaking the post Wayne Bennett curse, South Sydney made yet another preliminary final in 2022, and with next to no player movement for 2023 and a fully fit Latrell Mitchell, they will be hoping to match that feat at a minimum in 2023.
Alex Johnston, Benjamin Lovett, Blake Taaffe, Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Davvy Moale, Dean Hawkins, Hame Sele, Isaiah Taas, Izaac Thompson, Jacob Host, Jai Arrow, Jed Cartwright, Josiah Karapani, Keaon Koloamatangi, Lachlan Ilias, Latrell Mitchell, Leon Te Hau, Liam Knight, Michael Chee Kam, Peter Mamouzelos, Shaquai Mitchell, Siliva Havili, Taane Milne, Tallis Duncan, Terrell Kalo Kalo, Tevita Tatola, Thomas Burgess, Tyrone Munro, Jye Gray. Coach: Jason Demetriou. (as at February 11)
Latrell Mitchell, Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham, Isaiah Tass, Izaac Thompson, Cody Walker, Lachlan Ilias, Tevita Tatola, Damien Cook, Thomas Burgess, Keaon Koloamatangi, Jai Arrow, Cameron Murray, Blake Taaffe, Siliva Havili, Jacob Host, Davvy Moale.
BEST RE-SIGNINGEmbed from Getty Images
With South Sydney making no incoming transfers for the upcoming season, you have to look at who they have re-signed instead, and it is big news. The club announced in December that they had re-signed both Cody Walker (2025), Damien Cook (2025) and Latrell Mitchell (2027) to long term deals, cementing the club’s spine for the future. Halfback Lachlan Ilias was re-signed until 2025 earlier in 2022.
So, with the key positions sorted, an excellent forward pack, and a winger who is set to become the game’s greatest ever try scorer of all time; South Sydney feel they have enough from within for 2023. Time will tell whether standing still will see them go backwards this season.
KEY PLAYEREmbed from Getty Images
Latrell Mitchell is the key to South Sydney going further than 2022. On the back of his return from injury they sneaked into the top eight, then made it all the way to the second last week of the competition and gave the eventual premiers a good fright for the first 30 minutes. From his return from injury in Round 16, the Rabbitohs scored 14 competition points, and 16 points prior to that. And went from averaging 23 points a game to 28 points per game.
Importantly, his return sparked Cody Walker back into life, who before Mitchell’s return was hot and cold at best.
Hopefully with his future secured for another five seasons, and a successful Rugby League World Cup behind him, he can take his game to greater heights in 2023 for the Rabbitohs.
PLAYER TO WATCHEmbed from Getty Images
Lachlan Ilias is the player to watch in 2023, for the potential dreaded second season syndrome. Will he be the next Adam Reynolds to steer the club for a decade or more, or will he be more of a Joe Williams, lost to rugby league obscurity in a few years’ time.
Ilias developed really well throughout 2022, and the signs are very promising for the future. Andrew Johns at one stage called him the best defensive halfback in the competition in 2022. He provides a more solid base from which the electric powers of Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell can shock opposition defences, but he needs to kick on in 2023 for South Sydney to overtake their fellow 2022 top eight clubs.
Another player to watch in 2023 is Davvy Moale, who will start on the bench in 2023, but the Cook Islands international is on an upwards curve and will be pushing for a starting forward slot soon enough.
South Sydney have proven one of the most consistent teams in the past five seasons, and although they are slightly mocked for their repeated failures at the preliminary final stage, many fans would be happy for that lack of achievement.
Despite a lack of new faces in 2022, they still have a quality squad. Players like club captain Cameron Murray and Keaon Koloamatangi took their game to a new level in 2022. Tom Burgess and Jai Arrow found their best form for a few years in 2022. In fact, the Rabbitohs have one of the most underrated forward packs in the NRL.
South Sydney do also have the competition’s leading try scorer from the last three seasons in Alex Johnston. The winger is two good seasons away from breaking Ken Irvine’s all-time leading try scorer record, and if the recently re-signed Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell can work their magic, Johnston could be looking at another 20-plus try scoring season.
The worry for South Sydney is if Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell can’t work their magic in 2023, with either getting injured or losing form. They were a different team without Latrell Mitchell in 2022 and with a hot and cold Cody Walker, they looked more of a midfield team than a top four side.
South Sydney is a team that are seemingly going under the radar more than most teams heading into 2023, with a settled team, settled coach, and a Prime Minister on their side.
If everything goes as planned there’s no reason that the Rabbitohs can make yet another preliminary final berth, and beyond.