With under a week to go until the NRL kicks off, we lay down an extended preview for each club. Below is a look at the highly fancied Bunnies.
Ins: Latrell Mitchell (Roosters), Bryson Goodwin (Warrington), Troy Dargan (Broncos), Steven Marsters (Dragons), Patrick Mago (Broncos), Joshua Cook, Dean Hawkins, Keaon Kolomatangi, Ky Rodwell (upgraded from development contracts)
Outs: John Sutton, Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess (retired), George Burgess (Wigan), Dean Britt (Bulldogs), Connor Tracey (Sharks), Billy Brittain (Dragons), Mawene Hiroti (Sharks), Adam Doueihi (Tigers), Kyle Turner, Jacob Gagan (released)
For a second straight season the Rabbitohs made it all the way to the preliminary final, only to be beaten out. This despite losing Greg Inglis with barely impact on the 2019 season.
Cook and Walker started the season breathing fire, earning Origin call ups, while Adam Reynolds seemed to improve as the season went on. He shook off injury concerns to lead his team to within a game of the deicder.
Campbell Graham and Braidon Burns became big time players in the Bunnies set up, while James Roberts joined the outrageously talented backline.
Cameron Murray continued his incredible rise to rep footy while Luke Knight announced himself as a genuine run on first grader. Yes they fell short of a title, but it was a ripper of a season.
Predicted Best Player: Damien Cook
For those who expected to see Latrell Mitchell here, see recruitment impact.
Damien Cook copped a fair amount of flack for an ordinary performance in the preliminary final last year. Although he didn’t live up to his lofty expectations, his 2019 season was downright incredible.
He was one of the form players of the competition across the early rounds and overall I believe he has become the elite number nine in the code.
The balance of the Bunnies side changes in 2020 with no Burgess or Sutton leading the way, but Cook is more than up to guiding a new look forward pack around.
I expect Cook to start the season in similar fashion to last season and possibly even lead the Dally M count early on, although I’d be shocked if he didn’t improve on his post-season for this year.
Predicted Top Scorer: Campbell Graham
Given the amount of talent in the halves and centres, as well as newly minted fullback Latrell Mitchell, I expect young Campbell Graham to possibly double his current NRL try tally in 2020.
Having scored 21 tries in 48 games, the 20 year-old has certainly shown he knows his way to the line. He and Dane Gagai should see some serious opportunities at alarming regularity being on the end of a potent back line.
He debuted for Australia in last year’s 9’s tournament and showed he can mix it with the international stars. That should only benefit his confidence entering the new season.
I expect somewhere around 16-18 tries for the 6 foot 6 winger in 2020.
The fortunes of the Bunnies completely turned on the day they officially announced the signing of Latrell Mitchell who will take over fullback duties for the red and greens.
Mago is a clever addition and Goodwin ads experience in the back depth but you can’t go past the Mitchell signing as the biggest across the entire competition.
Arguably the game’s best centre has gone looking for more ball and more impact. Although it will take time for him to adjust to the positioning of his new role, but I have no doubt this will be positive shift.
If Latrell can hit the ground running he could take the Bunnies that step further and put the side in a position to send Wayne Bennett out with yet another title.
2020 Final Position: 3rd
Souths have lost some major stars in Burgess and Inglis but have a side capable of going even further this season.
Mitchell is a huge in, but it’s the existing members of the spine who are absolutely key.
On his day no other number nine can match what Cook can produce. The Origin quality halves should provide a mountain of opportunities for their backs.
Wayne Bennett has announced his intentions to hand over at the end of their 2020 campaign and his players will want to send him out a winner.
Given the ridiculous talent in this side, they very might do that.