After making five consecutive preliminary finals, one of which resulting in a grand final appearance, South Sydney have to be knocking on the door of a premiership, right?

If the signs are anything to go off, they could be about to bang that door down as the Bunnies head into 2023 with the most settled squad in the NRL.

Rookie coach Jason Demetriou is heading into his sophomore season and doing so without recruiting a single player with NRL experience, instead putting an emphasis on their youth, and developing combinations.

They've had a busy off-season on the retention front though, locking up every single member of their spine through to at least 2025, as well as extending Demetriou through to the same year. Add in Cameron Murray already being signed until 2025, and this side will be together for a while yet.

They possess the most potent left edge in the NRL, with Alex Johnston notching 83 tries in his last 69 games, while Cody Walker has more try-assists over the last five years than any other NRL player.

Can they overcome that final hurdle, or are the Rabbitohs destined to be pretenders amongst contenders?

Recruitment report

Ins: Terrell Kalo Kalo (2023), Josiah Karapani (2024), Ben Lovett (2024), Leon Te Hau (2024), Jye Gray (2024)

Outs: Mark Nicholls (The Dolphins), Kodi Nikorima (The Dolphins), Jaxson Paulo (Sydney Roosters)

Recruitment impact

Their recruitment is borderline non-existent in terms of bring outside players in, instead focusing on promoting their youth from within, similarly to their 2014 side, which had four debutants from that season in the grand final side.

Jye Gray is the only real outside recruit, a young five-eighth from Queensland with a big future in the NRL, and arguably brought in as Cody Walker's long-term replacement.

Mark Nicholls, Kodi Nikorima and Jaxson Paulo are experienced departures, however they're replaced in the 17 by Davvy Moale, Blake Taaffe and Izaac Thompson.

Key talking points

Can the Rabbitohs stop the errors?
Put simply, the Rabbitohs biggest threat in 2023 are... the Rabbitohs.

More often the not, South Sydney would beat themselves before they gave their opposition to do the same last season, carrying one of the worst completion rates in the competition, while suspensions at key times cost them massively.

The 'seven sin-bin' semi-final against the Roosters is a case in point, however they were lucky that the Roosters were just as bad for it on the day. It should be their key focus.

Will Lachlan Ilias build on his rookie season?
Lachlan Ilias had some highs, and he had some lows last season, but it's unsurprising for the most scrutinised rookie in the NRL in 2022.

Ilias was tasked with filling Adam Reynolds massive, metaphorically speaking, boots after the club captain departed for Brisbane, and despite being benched 29 minutes into their midseason clash against St George Illawarra, he bounced back in a big way.

The halfback doesn't need to star, he has Damien Cook, Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell for that, but simply steady the ship. Find the grass on his long kicks, build pressure on the try-line, and defend well.

NRL Rd 4 - Panthers v Rabbitohs
PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Lachlan Ilias of the Rabbitohs passes during the round four NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at BlueBet Stadium, on April 01, 2022, in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Can Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell harness their emotion?
Two of the most influential stars on the field, the duo often tread the line between being emotion-driven, and losing the plot.

Mitchell has reined it in after missing a grand final in 2021 due to foul play, while Walker has been known to show the occasional on-field blow-up. The two stars must use that emotion and harness it by throwing it back through their play, not their mouths.

Star player - Latrell Mitchell
You don't need a run-down to know the special, special plays Latrell Mitchell can produce on the field. But simply put, he needs to stay on the field.

The Rabbitohs went 5-5 without their star fullback last year, and went 11-6 when he pulled on the cardinal and myrtle jersey. In fact, since joining the Rabbitohs in 2020, Latrell Mitchell has won a whopping 73% of matches at club level.

Losing just 11 of 48 when he plays, they need their superstar fullback on the field.

Player under pressure - Lachlan Ilias
Young halfback Lachlan Ilias really built on his game after being benched last year, improving his kicking and running game, and he wasn't afraid to hand the big moments to his star-studded spine if it gave them a better chance.

However, the No. 7 had some real shaky performances, and local product Dean Hawkins breathing down his neck. Factor in growing rookie halves Jye Gray and Dion Teaupa, and the pressure is on for Ilias to perform.

Breakout star - Davvy Moale
Likened to Payne Haas and Stefano Utoikamanu, Davvy Moale is ready to grab his NRL career by the scruff of the neck.

The Cook Islands international debuted at just 18, incredibly rare for a front-rower, and has played a small role over the past two seasons. However following Mark Nicholls departure, there's a vacancy at prop, and Moale is the man to grab it.

Scoring a try in the Charity Shield and disallowed one the week prior, this 19-year-old prop's leg drive and big motor will have clubs on high alert once he's unleashed.

NRL Rd 18 - Bulldogs v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Davvy Moale of the Rabbitohs is tackled during the round 18 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Stadium Australia, on July 17, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

2023 Draw impact

No Sydney club will do more travel in 2023 than the Rabbitohs, and it's partially their fault.

The club is taking home matches to the Sunshine Coast, Cairns and Perth this season, as well as an away trip to New Zealand, one to Tamworth, and including their home games, six games in Queensland.

They have a handy bye in Round 26, which will have them fresh for the final regular season round.

Fixtures to watch

Round 2 v Penrith Panthers, BlueBet Stadium, 8:05pm AEDT, Thursday March 9
A monumental clash, the Penrith Panthers have absolutely had the wood over South Sydney Rabbitohs in recent years, eliminating them from the finals the last three seasons.

However, the tide looks to be finally turning. The Panthers have lost Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau to rivals, as well as Taylan May to injury. Just two rounds in, this is shaping as the perfect chance for the Rabbitohs' to strike.

Round 12 v Parramatta Eels, TBA, 8:00pm AEST, Friday May 19

Yet to confirm a venue, the Parramatta Eels should be mightily concerned about this match-up.

The Eels haven't beaten the Bunnies since an Origin-affected round in 2019, with South Sydney winning six straight, but the real concern is the score lines. The Bunnies have won those clashes combined 210-68, an average scoreline of 35-11.

The Rabbitohs simply own Parramatta in recent years.

Round 27 v Sydney Roosters, Accor Stadium, 8:00pm AEST, Friday September 1

Both tipped for big seasons and featuring in many pundits top four, not only will this have massive implications for the finals, but there is so much bitterness every time these teams clash.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs and Joseph Manu of the Roosters shakes hand after 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 Book of Feuds' will be adding a fresh chapter as rugby league's oldest rivalry clashes once again, the Rabbitohs will be fresh coming off a bye, and eager to beat their arch-rivals once again.

The Bunnies have won five of their last six against the Chooks, starting with the 60-8 drubbing in 2020's corresponding fixture. This could make or break either team's finals prospects.


Jack Blyth
The most settled squad in the NRL, they haven't brought a single player with NRL experience into the team ahead of this season.

Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell are key, both must stay on the field, however there's so many weapons in this team, specifically the left edge. Alex Johnston has scored 83 tries in three years, and Cody Walker has more try-assists in the last five years than any other player.

Damien Cook hasn't lost a step, and the club is backing their youth to breakthrough. Keep an eye on Davvy Moale as the Rabbitohs aim for a sixth consecutive preliminary final.


Dan Nichols
The Bunnies have played in a preliminary final in the past five seasons. I see nothing to suggest they can't appear on that stage yet again.

Souths boast one of the game's elite spines, albeit one that frustrates fans at times. Ilias was very good in his rookie season and I expect him to improve again in 2023.

There is no obvious weakness here. From 1 to 17 they're right up there with the very best in the competition.


Scott Pryde
The Rabbitohs will have another good season, but that premiership will continue to just stay out of arm's reach.

Their spine is getting older, and I'm not necessarily sure that's a good thing, while the over-reliance of Latrell Mitchell for attack against the competition's best defences will remain.

Lachlan Ilias is key, but there just too many questions over South Sydney.


Zero Tackle calculator: 6th