South Sydney overcame a slow start to the 2022 season to go within one game of getting back into the NRL grand final.

Their preliminary final exit to eventual premiers Penrith would've left every player and supporter at the club burning, but from where the Bunnies came from to get there should also leave everyone enthused for the future. reflects on some key talking points for the Rabbitohs in 2022 and why things are in place for further success in 2023.

Demetriou achieves rare Bennett feat

It's usually a task that proves too difficult for most coaches - replacing Wayne Bennett - but Jason Demetriou produced the best effort by a coach post-Wayne era to guide the side to a preliminary final.

Both Steve Price (Dragons) and Rick Stone (Knights) couldn't get their sides into the finals 12 months after Bennett left with Ivan Henjak's Broncos in 2009 the last team to reach the finals.

It shows that there will be no hangover post-Bennett at South Sydney, particularly when Demetriou has star quartet Cameron Murray, Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Damien Cook on the field.

Star trio set to stay

Still on Latrell and along with South Sydney teammates Cody Walker and Damien Cook, all three are expected to extend their stay at the club in a massive boost for at least the next three seasons.

The trio, along with Cameron Murray, make up the Rabbitohs' core group of senior leadership and strike weapons.

Their official retentions will help Jason Demetriou plan long-term with players around them while Rabbitohs fans should be buoyed that their stars are committed to winning a title at the club.
“We came so close to achieving our goal this year and it has made us all hungrier to get that premiership success and win number 22 for the Rabbitohs.

Latrell's USA stint a win

Some questioned it, others laughed whether it would be worth it but in the end, Latrell Mitchell let his trip to the USA do the talking in the second half of the season.

And didn't Souths benefit.

Mitchell's return from a hamstring injury was simply outstanding and Souths were a different team every time he was on the paddock.

His finals performances, particularly against the Roosters and Sharks, showed how capable he was to deliver on the big stage, as he has done in the past.

With the Bunnies star due back to pre-season training in January after his World Cup duties, it won't take him long to find his groove in the first half of the season.

Cook's point to prove

Still on Cook and the NSW and Rabbitohs hooker will look to make a point of being overlooked by the Kangaroos at the World Cup.

Cook improved on his running game under Jason Demetriou in 2022 and produced his best season defensively, missing just 31 tackles in 23 games.

With the likes of Harry Grant and Api Koroisau laying claim to being the best dummy halves in the game, look for Cook to bounce back next season.

A captain's knock

South Sydney has had plenty of great leaders take on the captaincy but Cameron Murray's first year in charge of the Bunnies couldn't have been any more impressive.

Murray's captaincy actually elevated him to produce some career-best numbers in 2022 with his attacking numbers on the rise as the NRL constantly evolves.

The 24-year-old endured a couple of testing moments with head knocks in State of Origin and during the finals series but completed his year by vice captaining Australia at the World Cup.

One of the most reliable and mature forwards in the game, South Sydney have their captain for the next decade.

Ilias settles in

It's wild to think many questioned the decision to let Adam Reynolds go for a young player like Lachlan Ilias after the Rabbitohs struggled early in the season.

Hindsight is wonderful, of course, but the way Ilias was able to overcome a couple of own personal hurdles, including a benching against the Dragons in Round 15, set him up for the better for the end of the season.

Ilias produced 12 try assists in 26 appearances for the Bunnies. When you consider Reynolds produced seven and eight respectively in his final two years at the club, you could say the Greek international has done his job.

He might want his time when he watches a replay of the preliminary final against Penrith but overall it was a solid season and one that you expect him to build on in 2023.

Right edge fun

Still on Ilias and South Sydney's right edge proved just as potent as their left side in 2022 which allowed more predictability to the side's game.

Everyone was aware the Rabbitohs' left edge was their best-attacking strength (not that teams could still stop it), but their ability to get better on the right has enabled them to find points all over the park.

Keaon Koloamatangi and Campbell Graham have played their part in that respect both in attack and defence, while Latrell Mitchell has also improved his fullback play to also target both sides of the field.

AJ's heroics narrows gap

Alex Johnston is 56 tries away from equalling Ken Irvine for most tries by a player in rugby league history and if recent form is anything to go by, AJ could be overtaking the former North Sydney winger by 2025.

Another 30 tries for Johnston in 2022 was the first time any player has ever scored 30 tries in back-to-back seasons.

The remarkable run can be put down to the men delivering him the ball out wide but South Sydney's attack also shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.

For as long as Johnston stays healthy at the Rabbitohs and on the left edge, he'll achieve greatness in the future.

Junior's value rising

For all the stars in South Sydney's line-up in 2022, underrated prop Junior Tatola was quietly going about his business to be as consistent as them all.

The Tongan international was awarded the club's player of the year award in a year that saw the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Cameron Murray take most of the headlines for starring roles.

The Rabbitohs have undergone major change in the forward pack since 2018 when Tatola first arrived at Redfern but he's made every post a winner by playing 119 games across the five seasons.

Graham returns a Test player

Campbell Graham's meteoric rise to an Australian Test representative feels like it's happened overnight with the World Cup squad member the only player in the squad yet to play State of Origin.

Graham has been part of NSW camp previously but despite not yet pulling on the sky blue jersey he's looking more than comfortable wearing green and gold in the UK.

Graham has become one of the best centres in the game - particularly defensively - after making the switch two years ago.

On the left edge, the Rabbitohs have quickly found their replacement for Dane Gagai after initial fears he'd be hard to replace.

Isaiah Tass got through 15 games at centre in 2022 and after extending his contract for a further two seasons he appears set to play a role in the backline long-term.

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