The South Sydney Rabbitohs will enter the 2023 campaign looking to finally go another step up the rung, having again been eliminated in the preliminary finals during 2022.

Their grand final effort of 2021 is the standout, however, over the last five years, the Rabbitohs have made five out of five preliminary finals, but are yet to lift the Provan-Summons trophy.

Some teams and their fans - and yes, that means me - would do anything to switch fortunes with a club like the Rabbitohs, but to their fans, 2023 is a time when they will want to go up another gear and find a premiership.

The Panthers have been their destroyers in each of the last two seasons, having beaten South Sydney in the 2021 grand final and again in the 2022 preliminary final.

Despite that, South Sydney have elected to re-sign all of Cody Walker (2025), Damien Cook (2025) and Latrell Mitchell (2027), so there are no excuses for the men from Redfern.

The club have put faith into the stars to guide the ship, and guide it they must.

Despite that, there are some glaring holes at the club, not aided by some of the losses they have encountered this off-season without any major signings, so, in a perfect world where the Rabbitohs could sign whoever they want without a contract or salary issue, who would it be?

Current squad

Jai Arrow, Thomas Burgess, Jed Cartwright, Michael Chee-Kam, Damien Cook, Campbell Graham, Siliva Havili, Dean Hawkins, Jacob Host, Lachlan Ilias, Alex Johnston, Richie Kennar, Liam Knight, Keaon Koloamatangi, Ben Lovett, Peter Mamouzelos, Taane Milne, Latrell Mitchell, Shaquai Mitchell, Davvy Moale, Cameron Murray, Hame Sele, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Blake Taaffe, Isaiah Tass, Tevita Tatola, Leon Te Hau, Izaac Thompson, Cody Walker


The Rabbitohs' side - as with any side who have just made five preliminary finals - looks relatively set for the 2023 season, albeit with some areas that will continue to let the club down.

Stars are everywhere in this side - of that there can be no doubt.

Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Damien Cook - the duo who have all re-signed in the lead-up to Christmas- are all among the best in their respective positions in the competition.

It's a spine which is rounded out by Lachlan Ilias, who took a while to warm to the task of replacing Adam Reynolds last year, but ultimately got there and passed with flying colours during the second half of his first season, having at one stage been hooked against the Dragons.

The backline sees Alex Johnston and Campbell Graham as the stars, although the other centre and wing positions - likely to go to Isaiah Tass and Taane Milne - could both do with an upgrade.

Milne's hot-headedness, flaring again during the preliminary final where he was sent off, has let South Sydney down at times, and while Tass has been an excellent addition to the first-grade side, there are issues in what is the most defensively important position on the field.

Mark Nicholls' departure in the front row hasn't been effectively replaced, leaving a hole in the side. In all likelihood, Thomas Burgess will shift up to the front row to start alongside the rampaging Tevita Tatola, but again, it's an area where the Rabbitohs will lack depth, with the likes of Hame Sele and Daniel Suluka-Fifita to battle for the bench minutes with Nicholls not in the side.

NRL Rd 16 - Eels v Rabbitohs

Their depth being skinny in the middle third isn't the case at lock where Cameron Murray will hold things down, but a single injury anywhere in the middle third will leave the Rabbitohs sorely lacking.

As mentioned, Cook will play as the starting hooker for the men from Redfern, with Siliva Havili likely to take the 14 jersey, and young gun Peter Mamouzelos, whose future is now very up in the air following Cook's re-signing, providing further back-up to the side, particularly around Origin time, but also providing a very capable option as proven previously in the top grade when or if injury strikes.

Keaon Koloamatangi and Jai Arrow round out the starting 13, with the duo both excellent options in the second row and likely to hold their respective jerseys down throughout the course of the 2023 campaign.

Options to steal

Option 1: Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys)
Holmes seems to be a player popping up time and time again in this series, and it speaks volumes to what he was able to do throughout the 2022 campaign for the Cowboys.

Coming into the year, there were plenty who were unclear on his ability as a centre.

He squashed that as loudly as he was able to though, but also still has the versatility to be able to line up on the wing or at fullback, making him something of an ideal recruit for many clubs, including the Rabbitohs.

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Option 2: Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
When it comes to centres in the NRL, there are none better than Joseph Manu - and yet, like Holmes, he can also play in other positions.

In fact, in the case of Manu, he would prefer to play in other positions. Able to line up at fullback or in the halves, he would also bring plenty of versatility to South Sydney.

Where he lets himself down in this exchange is the idea of playing on the wing, and that centre isn't his first preference - the last thing any club would want to do is bring a player in who could potentially destabilise the environment if they would prefer to be playing in another position.

However, on raw talent alone, Manu is one of the NRL's best players.

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Option 3: Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
If South Sydney were to go for a winger alone, then it's hard to argue Daniel Tupou wouldn't fit the bill almost perfectly.

A perfect complement to the backline, his appetite for work and gaining metres out of his own end was virtually second to none throughout the 2022 campaign.

He has height to boot, which will make Lachlan Ilias more dangerous, and is an all-round strong defender who worked his way back into the New South Wales State of Origin set up in 2022.

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Tackles Made

Option 4: Christian Welch (Melbourne Storm)
Welch has been absolutely enormous for the Melbourne Storm during his time at the club.

Him missing most of the 2022 season was something of a disaster for the men in purple, and while they still made the finals, his absence in crucial moments was felt severely.

A Queensland State of Origin player, he will go back to being one of Melbourne's most important players in 2023 following a number of high-profile departures, but he could also fill a similar leadership role at Redfern, who are also needing to replace Mark Nicholls.

Not flashy, Welch would be an upgraded, yet like-for-like replacement.

All Run Metres

The verdict

Given the uncertainty around exactly what South Sydney need, as well as who would play fullback in the event Mitchell gets injured, a player with versatility is the way to go here.

Joseph Manu can stand in at fullback in addition to being one of the game's best centres, but there is also a train of thought that says Tass can hold his own.

That said, a winger may in fact be the way to go, and Holmes provides coverage at centre, wing and fullback, and can do all three at a suitable NRL standard.

That really points towards him being South Sydney's ultimate recruit, as much as they could also benefit from beefing up their middle third with an extra prop in the way of Welch joining the club.

Valentine Holmes.


  1. There is a saying that forwards determine which side wins, and backs determine by how many.

    I think that there is more than a grain of truth in that.

    I would not be buying Welch until he has proved his fitness, and shows he still has form. For me, either Junior Paulo or Regan Campbell-Gillard.

  2. …. or if you want a centre who likes to play centre, who will run 3000 metres over the season, and who will worry the opposition, then choose Justin Olam or Sifa Talakai.

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