The South Sydney Rabbitohs will be out for revenge in 2022 following their grand final loss to the Penrith Panthers.

But that challenge to keep themselves at the pointy end of the competition ladder will only grow in 2022.

A new - and rookie at that - coach will take charge of a team who have lost two of their most experienced stars while other important questions linger over the makeup of South Sydney's best 17 for 2022.

Here is the Rabbitohs top 17.

Recruitment report

Ins: Michael Chee-Kam (Wests Tigers, 2022), Siliva Havili (Canberra Raiders, 2023), Isaiah Tass (Brisbane Broncos, 2022)

Outs: Braidon Burns (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Joshua Cook (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Troy Dargan (released), Dane Gagai (Newcastle Knights), Brock Gardner (released), Joe Lovodua (Hull FC), Patrick Mago (Wigan Warriors), Benji Marshall (retired), Tautau Moga (St George Illawarra Dragons), Adam Reynolds (Brisbane Broncos), Jaydn Su'a (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Brisbane Broncos Training Session
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 07: Adam Reynolds passes the ball during a Brisbane Broncos NRL training session at the Clive Berghofer Centre on February 07, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Re-signed: Zane Bijorac (2022), Lachlan Ilias (2023), Keaon Koloamatangi (2024), Peter Mamouzelos (2024), Latrell Mitchell (2023), Mark Nicholls (2024), Blake Taaffe (2023), Tevita Tatola (2024), Cody Walker (2023)

Full squad
Jai Arrow, Zane Bijorac, Thomas Burgess, Jed Cartwright, Michael Chee-Kam, Damien Cook, Campbell Graham, Saliva Havili, Jacob Host, Lachlan Ilias, Alex Johnston, Liam Knight, Keaon Koloamatangi, Peter Mamouzelos, Josh Mansour, Taane Milne, Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Mark Nicholls, Jaxson Paulo, Hame Sele, Blake Taaffe, Isaiah Tass, Tevita Tatola, Cody Walker.

NRL Rd 6 - Rabbitohs v Warriors
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 19: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs looks on during the round six NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors at Bankwest Stadium on June 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Who plays where?

Latrell Mitchell is the number one candidate to play fullback for the Rabbitohs. He will miss the first fortnight with a suspension which has carried over from last year after he sent Joey Manu into next week.

Despite that, the Origin star will be back in the fullback jumper for the Rabbitohs once he returns, and with the loss of Adam Reynolds and Dane Gagai, will need to take his game to the next level.

He is also reaching the point where he is now considered "experienced" and could well help to take over some of the lost leadership from the departure of Reynolds.

Back up comes in the form of Blake Taaffe, who was outstanding during the finals series for South Sydney in replacing Mitchell. Young development player Terrell Kalo Kalo could also be in consideration later in the season if he impresses at New South Wales Cup level.

The Rabbitohs do look a little skinny in the outside backs heading into the new year, although their first-choice side is still excellent.

Alex Johnston is one of the best wingers in the game and will quite obviously line up on the left edge where he was a destructive force last year, finding the tryline almost at will.

Jaxson Paulo played plenty of games on the wing at the back end of last year, but he is needed elsewhere this time around. That opens the door for Josh Mansour to go straight back into the side on the right-hand side of the park.

Paulo could be shifted out wide if injury strikes, while Taane Milne is a back-up option for all of the centres and wingers in the first-choice side.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs and Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs celebrate a try by team mate Damien Cook of the Rabbitohs during the round two NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Lottoland, on March 20, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Campbell Graham has turned himself into a consistent force in the centres on the right-hand side for the Rabbitohs over the years and will once again line up there in 2022.

He only missed a handful of games last year, but it was obvious when he wasn't on the field judging by South Sydney's performances.

The other centre is a toss-up.

Jaxson Paulo has reportedly been training in the centres and for that reason, as well as the fact Souths are a stronger side with both he and Mansour in it, we will give him first shot.

The back up at centre is quite strong however. Taane Milne is potentially the best option behind the starters, however, former Bronco Isaiah Tass will be looking for a run, as will Jed Cartwright and young gun Zane Bijorac, who comes highly rated from his junior days at South Sydney. This will be the 21-year-old's first season on a Top 30 contract. Michael Chee-Kam has also been signed and provides more depth.

Cody Walker finished third in last year's Dally M race, and given the unbelievable attacking form he displayed consistently across the season, was unlikely it wasn't higher. He was just incredibly unlucky that his career-best season happened to coincide with career-best seasons from Tom Trbojevic and Nathan Cleary who had less players stealing points off them then Walker did.

Nonetheless, with Reynolds departing the club, Walker's role goes to the next level this year.

He will need to do more control of the kicking game, potentially play both sides of the field and stand up as to replace the leadership lost with the departure of Reynolds.

Reynolds will likely be replaced by Lachlan Ilias, who is a highly rated halfback and has been a part of the Rabbitohs' system for some time.

Ilias will be backed up by Blake Taaffe, who is likely to be named on the bench once Mitchell returns, while Dean Hawkins is also in the squad and could put pressure on Ilias during the season if form isn't up to scratch.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Cody Walker of the Rabbitohs celebrates scoring a try with Dane Gagai of the Rabbitohs during the NRL Semi Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Manly Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium on September 20, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Middle forwards
In his final season with the Rabbitohs before joining the Dolphins, Mark Nicholls will again lead the forward pack out of the front row. Under Wayne Bennett, he became one of the game's more solid performers in the middle third of the park, putting up big minutes and big production on a consistent basis.

He will be joined up front once again by Tevita Tatola, who has a no-nonsense style and runs the ball as hard as any prop in the game.

Cameron Murray is in the top two locks in the game and will once again take the number 13 jumper for South Sydney as Jason Demetriou takes over and looks for a similar level of output.

Thomas Burgess was excellent at times last year and poses as the most likely option to replace any of the middle third players, while Liam Knight is also in the squad.

It's Davvy Moale - who has been unbelievably impressive in junior football - who could make his debut later in the season though. Regarded as one of the best props in the game, it's just a matter of time before he cracks first grade.

Hame Sele is also in South Sydney's squad.

Damien Cook is the New South Wales Blues hooker and will hold onto that jumper with ease at the Rabbitohs, having put up excellent performances over the last 12 months.

The Rabbitohs have also signed Siliva Havili from the Canberra Raiders, who could pose as a back up option, although he is likely behind last year's second-choice in Peter Mamouzelos.

NRL Semi Final - Eels v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: Damien Cook of the Rabbitohs celebrates as he runs in to score a try during the NRL Semi Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on October 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Keaon Koloamatangi has fast become one of the most dangerous ball-runners in the competition, putting up monstrous numbers last year. In Zero Tackle analysis, Koloamatangi was the second-most efficient runner in the game when it came to post-contact metres as a percentage of run metres during 2021.

There is very little doubt that he will be first picked on the edge by Demetriou.

The other spot in the second-row is less secure, with Jai Arrow and Jacob Host battling over it. Host played 21 games last year, but mainly off the bench, while Arrow turned himself into an edge forward more and more as the season went on, starting all games between Round 21 and 24 out wide.

Based on that and his experience, it has to be assumed he will start in the second row and then shift into the middle to allow Host minutes as a replacement throughout games.

Michael Chee-Kam provides plenty of back up on the edge.

Blake Taaffe will be afforded the first spot on the bench for the Rabbitohs. While he doesn't have the ability to play hooker, he can fill in just about anywhere in the backline, and with none of the forwards able to slot in out wide, it would be a cause for concern if one of the backs goes down injured if Taaffe wasn't playing.

Thomas Burgess was incredibly consistent last year for the Rabbitohs and so takes the next spot on the pine, creating a dominant front row combination with Tatola and Nicholls.

Jacob Host takes the next spot after some strong consistent performances throughout 2021.

The last spot is a question of team balance. Damien Cook is an 80-minute player, so playing Peter Mamouzelos seems somewhat a waste of time. Siliva Havili could be picked though given his ability to play lock, while Liam Knight also played plenty of football last year when he wasn't battling injury.

Havili seems like the best option from a depth point of view however, so takes the final spot.

The best 17

1. Latrell Mitchell
2. Alex Johnston
3. Jaxson Paulo
4. Campbell Graham
5. Josh Mansour
6. Cody Walker
7. Lachlan Ilias
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Tevita Tatola
11. Jai Arrow
12. Keaon Koloamatangi
13. Cameron Murray

14. Blake Taaffe
15. Thomas Burgess
16. Jacob Host
17. Siliva Havili

Other best 17s

Brisbane Broncos
Canberra Raiders
Canterbury Bulldogs
Cronulla Sharks
Gold Coast Titans
Manly Sea Eagles
Melbourne Storm
Newcastle Knights
New Zealand Warriors
North Queensland Cowboys
Parramatta Eels
Penrith Panthers