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South Sydney Rabbitohs 2020 season preview

After falling an agonising one game short for two years straight, can the Rabbitohs finally reach the grand final in 2020 and take home the club's 22nd premiership?

On one hand they've lost near-irreplaceable experience in Sam Burgess, John Sutton and Greg Inglis since the start of last season.

But they've also gained arguably the game's most potent attacking weapon and a bona fide winner in Latrell Mitchell. His inclusion at fullback adds to a lethal backline.

Having led South Sydney to the preliminary final in his first year at the helm, super coach Wayne Bennett only has two more chances to bring more glory to the game's most successful club.

The 70-year-old will step aside after season 2021, with current assistant coach Jason Demetriou to replace him. Sharp as ever, Bennett will be determined to finish his Rabbitohs term with a bang.

The 2020 outlook

What's new

Wanting a new challenge after dominating in the centres as the Roosters won back-to-back premierships, Latrell Mitchell has hopped to cross-town rivals South Sydney to play fullback. More on that later.

Mitchell is the only recruit guaranteed to start in first grade.

Veteran outside back Bryson Goodwin provides good depth having returned to the club after two seasons with Warrington in the Super League.

Papua New Guinea Test flyer Edene Gebbie, Broncos lower-grade halfback Troy Dargan, uncapped Titans winger Jaxson Paulo and promising Dragons centre Steven Marsters will also wear the cardinal and myrtle this year.

Dean Britt (Bulldogs), Connor Tracey (Sharks), Adam Doueihi (Tigers), George Burgess (Wigan) and Kyle Turner (unsigned) join the retired Sam Burgess and Sutton in leaving the Redfern playing group. Inglis retired last April.

Proud local junior and halfback Adam Reynolds has been named captain, taking over from Burgess.

Reigning Dally M Lock of the Year Cameron Murray will start as the left second-rower where he could form a slick combination with five-eighth Cody Walker.

Five key match-ups of the Rabbitohs' 2020 draw

The draw

Based on last year's ladder, Souths' credentials will undergo an early examination with clashes against four finals sides from 2019 - the Sharks in round one, followed by the Broncos, premiers the Roosters and minor premiers Melbourne.

The Rabbitohs finish the regular season with away matches against two of their main foes: the Roosters in round 24 and the Dragons in the last round.

The stat that gives you hope

Souths bowed out in the preliminary final in 2012 and 2013 before hoisting the Telstra Premiership trophy in 2014. It was the Roosters who had won the competition the previous year.

Rabbitohs fans will be hoping history repeats and their team can once again succeed the Chooks as NRL champions.

The coach

He's coached more than 800 games and been in the coaching pressure cooker for more than three decades but Wayne Bennett is still the man-management master.

Latrell Mitchell has repeatedly gushed about his influence in the short time he's been at Redfern.

While an exodus of veterans could unsettle some clubs, Bennett's calming persona and ability to pump players with confidence is poised to keep the Rabbitohs rolling.

The seven-time premiership-winner has seen it all over his illustrious career and has the nous needed to take the team all the way.

Soward's Say: 2020 Rabbitohs

Contract matters

Star five-eighth Cody Walker inked an extension until 2022 over the summer, while prop Liam Knight recommitted until 2023.

Latrell Mitchell signed a two-year deal, with the second year being an option in the club's favour.

Several fringe forwards are playing for new deals including Kurt Dillon, Tom Amone, Ky Rodwell and Bayley Sironen.

Given Mitchell will play fullback with Campbell Graham and Dane Gagai to occupy the wings, 2014 premiership hero Alex Johnston's future is clouded. 

There were reports that Johnston would be released but the speedy winger/fullback looks set to at least see out the final year of his deal.

Backs Steven Marsters and Corey Denniss are also unsigned beyond 2020. Second-rower Jaydn Su'A can activate a player option to stay at the club in 2021.

A host of big guns like Cam Murray, Adam Reynolds, James Roberts and Gagai come off-contract next season.

The burning question

How quickly can Latrell adapt to fullback? The 22-year-old has all the attributes to become a powerful custodian in the mould of the man he's frequently been compared to, Greg Inglis.

The world-beating centre played fullback in the juniors for the Roosters, spearheading the club to the SG Ball under-18s title in 2014.

Some have queried whether Mitchell's fitness will stand up to the arduous running load in the No.1 jumper, while others believe his effectiveness could be blunted by his increased involvement.

But if we've learned anything about Mitchell in his short but brilliant career so far, it's that he is capable of the extraordinary when he puts his mind to it. Under the mentorship of Wayne Bennett, the Indigenous icon could soar to new heights.

NRL Fantasy player in focus - Cameron Murray

Breakout player to watch

Liam Knight came on in leaps and bounds last year as he registered 23 games; the first time he'd cracked double figures in an NRL season.

The aggressive 25-year-old is now primed to become a top-tier middle-forward, entrusted with leading the charge in a pack that is lacking some experience.

Cameron Murray's switch from lock to the left edge is set to give Knight a crack to nailing down the No.13 jersey. Rep honours aren't out of the picture if he continues to improve.

The quote

"I can understand why coaches have two or three captains because it's hard to make a decision, but I'm not a fan of that. Someone's got to own it and be up front and centre with it. The thing that swung me in the end was that Adam was born here, has played his whole career here and I thought that was significant." - Wayne Bennett on his decision to anoint Adam Reynolds as captain