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South Sydney Rabbitohs 2019 season preview

The most bitter of coaching swaps, drama aplenty for Greg Inglis and the Burgess brothers and the inevitable anticipation around the famous cardinal and myrtle has set up a season of intrigue.

While the high expectation is now an annual attitude for South Sydney fans and independent observers alike, the installation of Wayne Bennett was something that could have happened years previous if the coaching icon had found an inner-city carpark.

Now Bennett is back in the Sydney and the spotlight on he and his star-studded side will intensify.

Last year's revival under Anthony Seibold took them to within one game of last year's decider.

In 2019 the hype and hoopla around Bennett and the foundation club will make the entire season feel like grand final week.

The 2019 outlook

What's new

It finished an ugly and dragged-out process and even spanned two continents but the Rabbitohs finally got their man 12 months early with Bennett's arrival exciting those at Redfern.

Seibold departs having rejuvenated the Bunnies attack, with players reporting that Bennett has tinkered in only the most minute fashion. The team's defence, on the other hand, is another matter.

Five key matchups of the Rabbitohs' 2019 draw

Souths did lose notable depth over the off-season along with NSW star Angus Crichton, however, Cameron Murray looms as a ready-made replacement for the Roosters signing.

Robert Jennings, Jason Clark, Hymel Hunt, Richie Kennar and Zane Musgrove have all moved on from the squad used last year. 

In return, the club added the likes of Cory Denniss (Knights), Kurt Dillon (Sharks), Bayley Sironen (Wests Tigers) and Corey Allan (Broncos).

The draw

South Sydney leave Sydney just once before May, a round five home game against the Warriors that the club is taking to the Sunshine Coast.

The most anticipated coaching showdown of the year – Bennett and Seibold against their former teams – falls in round eight at ANZ Stadium, before the Bunnies hit the road for Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium.

The Rabbitohs' run home is brutal based on last year's ladder. In the final seven weeks of the regular season they face the Dragons (home), Sharks (away), Storm (home on the Central Coast), Bulldogs (home), Broncos (away), Warriors (away) and Roosters (home).

The stat that gives you hope

After a couple of seasons copping it from every quarter for their stale, predictable attack, the Rabbitohs' 25.8 shift passes a game last year (ball movement that covers at least 30 per cent of the field) was the most in the NRL.

No surprise that 55 per cent of those shifts were to their left edge, where Robert Jennings, Cody Walker and co. scored 37 tries between them.

Whether that style of attack changes with Bennett at the helm is anyone's guess but one thing the side will want to maintain is a healthy ray of variety.

What you need to know NRL Fantasy wise

Damien Cook ($969,000) was the best Fantasy player of 2018 but he comes with a very high price tag this season.

Rising star Cameron Murray ($595,000) looks better value, as do Sam Burgess ($671,000) and Greg Inglis ($524,000). Corey Allan ($212,000) is a smokey for the fullback role and will be a bargain if he gets a run in first grade.

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett.
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett. ©

The coach

Bennett's move to Redfern was seven years in the making and is already among the most seismic signings in the club's history. If he can add to the trophy cabinet, it'll also prove one of the best moves made in their 111 years.

His three-year deal will take him into his 70s with seemingly age the only thing that will slow him down. As it stands, he's got one of the safest jobs in the game regardless of how the side performs this year.

Contract matters

George Burgess is the most prominent off-contract name having already knocked back a chance to link with Parramatta, but the Rabbitohs are no certainties to keep the big Brit and his brothers together due to cap constraints.

Rabbitohs prop George Burgess.
Rabbitohs prop George Burgess. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

The future of Alex Johnston is never too far away from the rumour mill either, while looking long term, Greg Inglis' retirement in 18 months' time will make Souths a serious contender for any big name on the market.

The burning question

How much does Bennett do with the Rabbitohs attack?

When Souths stormed to the 2014 title, Bennett was called out for correctly calling their attack "predictable".

Renowned for his own simple, and successful, tactical approach, what the Bunnies do with ball in hand under his stewardship should intrigue.

Representative bolter

As far as backline bench utilities go, Cody Walker would relish the final 10 minutes of an Origin contest and the tired bodies that come with it. He produced his best season yet in 2018 with 14 try assists and 12 of his own.

Cameron Murray is not without his fans either among the NSW hierarchy.

The player you should follow on social media

He's locked in until at least 2021 and the excitement around Cameron Murray's future in the game is building.

Away from the sporting field he's shared his journey from a young age and mixed his passion for rugby league with his love for his family.

View this post on Instagram

Home for the next 3 years, can’t wait for the journey ahead 🙌🏼

A post shared by Cameron Murray (@cameronmurrayy) on

The quote

"It always comes down to premierships but there's a lot of work in front of us here. We need a little bit of luck, things to go for you but we have the quality players here. I can feel a real comradeship among the players, real mateship. Everything's in place, it's just a matter of how we play our football, luck with injuries, that kind of thing." - Wayne Bennett

Arrows indicate players who signed after the submission of initial rosters on November 1, 2018.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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