SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs celebrates scoring a try during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Go back 12 months and you'll see a South Sydney side sweating under the spotlight.

They'd just lost a Grand Final, the likes of Adam Reynolds, Dane Gagai and Wayne Bennett had departed, Latrell Mitchell was being continually questioned after his Joseph Manu tackle, and questions over Jason Demetriou arose as talks of 'the Bennett curse' settled in.

Flash forward to now, and the club has lost just Mark Nicholls, Jaxson Paulo and Kodi Nikorima for 2023, and are coming off a preliminary final loss in a season where Mitchell missed ten games.

NRL Rd 3 - Rabbitohs v Roosters
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs celebrates with Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs after scoring a try during the round three NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters at Accor Stadium, on March 25, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The loss of Adam Reynolds especially had the Redfern-based side constantly scrutinised, even as the season got underway, however Jason Demetriou is confident that this pre-season is a lot smoother than his first as head coach.

“We've got a really settled squad. We're in a much better position than we were this time last year, no major surgeries,” Demetriou told Fox Sports.

“You park last season but you still review it and make sure that when we come back in January (with the full squad) that we know the little margins that we need to improve and are clear on the direction we're going.

“The players took a lot of confidence out of the back end of the year last year. I think we won 10 of our last 13 against top-six sides so that puts us in a good place.

“But it's a different year, we need to get the pre-season right and worry about the start of the season.”

South Sydney Rabbitohs Training Session
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Rabbbitohs assistant coach Jason Demetriou talks to Rabbitohs head coach Wayne Bennett during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on March 09, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

While the club hasn't recruited anyone with NRL experience, they have a host of youngsters rising through the ranks, as well as recruiting young half Jye Gray from Brisbane, a five-eighth that stood out in the Mal Meninga squad.

Close to re-signing with the Rabbitohs on a two-year deal, hooker Damien Cook likes what he's sees in the squad this off-season.

“We've got a really good squad here at the moment, no big changes from last year and a couple of young boys coming up the pathways,” Cook said.

“We're in a really good position where a lot of teams have changed some key positions and we're better for the run from last season.”

While a large portion of their squad lined up in the World Cup, some are trickling back into training already despite not being expected back until January 5th.

Tevita Tatola and Silvia Havili are already on the pitch while Latrell Mitchell watched on from the sidelines this week.