Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The South Sydney Rabbitohs endured the absolute lowest of lows possible for a club in Rugby League when their existence had all but ended when they were kicked out of the NRL at the end of 1999, but fought back and returned to the competition in 2002.
However, all would not be well instantly, as the Rabbitohs would not make the top eight for five straight seasons upon their return to the NRL, finishing last on the ladder on three occasions during that period.
In 2012, the club would return to the top four for the first time since their return to the competition and remain there until they won their 21st premiership in 2014, their first in 43 years.
A truly historic moment for the club that was nearly replicated last season when they made the Grand Final, falling just short to the Penrith Panthers 14-12.
The Rabbitohs will be looking to go one step further in 2022 but will have to do so without former captain Adam Reynolds and super coach Wayne Bennett.
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— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) February 11, 2022
Michael Chee-Kam’s wealth of NRL experience gained during his time at the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and Wests Tigers will be a welcome addition to South Sydney’s forward pack in 2022.
After arguably not receiving ever deserved opportunity at the Tigers, Chee-Kam now has the chance to play a much bigger role at a stronger club, setting him up for a big year.
Isaiah Tass’ impressive season with the Souths Logan Magpies in the 2021 Intrust Super Cup season earned him an NRL contract offer from the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The 22-year-old winger will find it hard to get a start in the NRL once Latrell Mitchell returns from suspension in round three due to South Sydney’s depth in their backline, but should prove a handy backup as someone who still has plenty of time to make their mark.
Tongan and New Zealand International Siliva Havili is a smart buy for the Rabbitohs following the loss of promising hooker Joshua Cook to the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs.
Havili’s 104 games of NRL experience and versatility will make him a more than suitable 14 for the Bunnies who have lacked in that area in recent years.
QUESTIONS HEADING INTO 2022
CAN WALKER BE AS GOOD WITHOUT REYNOLDS?
Adam Reynolds’ departure from the Rabbitohs at the end of 2021 left many doubtful about the club’s chances this year, with doubts also surrounding his halves partner Cody Walker who is the reigning Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year.
Walker was superb last season as he had the freedom to run the ball and play his natural game, with Reynolds the game controller in attack taking most of the pressure off of the 32-year-old.
Throughout 2022, Walker will be partnered with a very inexperienced half no matter who plays in the number seven during the season, meaning Walker will be forced to limit his ball running and take on more of a traditional halfback role at times, something we are yet to see him do consistently in the NRL.
CAN LATRELL STEP UP AND BE A LEADER?
Latrell Mitchell could be set for a career-defining season in 2022, as the loss of Adam Reynolds to the Rabbitohs will see him in a more prominent role in the squad’s hierarchy, especially when it comes to on-field performances.
The fullback had a strong 2021 but was let down by his temper which saw him act out and get suspended on multiple occasions throughout the season.
If he can manage this and see out 2022 without any unnecessary stints on the sideline, then the Taree native could prove the single most important piece of South Sydney’s potential premiership-winning puzzle.
WILL DEMETRIOU HANDLE THE PRESSURE?
Former Wakefield Trinity player Jason Demetriou has spent the last three seasons under Wayne Bennett at the Rabbitohs as his assistant and has now been promoted to the head coaching role.
It was no secret that this was the plan from the get-go when Bennett arrived at the club in 2019, but now it is time for Demetriou to repay the faith that South Sydney has had in him by maintaining their status as a premiership contender, a task easier said than done.
1. Blake Taaffe
2. Alex Johnston
3. Taane Milne
4. Isaiah Tass
5. Jaxson Paulo
6. Cody Walker
7. Lachlan Ilias
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Tevita Tatola
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jai Arrow
13. Cameron Murray ©
14. Saliva Havili
15. Thomas Burgess
16. Liam Knight
17. Michael Chee-Kam