A chat with Wayne Bennett about South Sydney's third straight preliminary finals exit still stings for Damien Cook, who hopes the club's latest recruitment spree proves the difference in 2021.
Cook is one of nine Rabbitohs players who have been on the end of all of those defeats. Dreams of a premiership were dashed with not even a grand final appearance to fall back on.
Bennett, who will finish up as Rabbitohs coach at season's end, has been in charge of two of them – a 16-10 loss to the Raiders in 2019 and 20-14 loss against Penrith last year.
"Wayne just said you're better off not making the finals at all sometimes because it hurts just as much," Cook told NRL.com.
A change of stripes for Benji
"And he's absolutely right, that's the feeling you have and it shows how hard it is to win. Sometimes it's harder to get there.
"You end up in the same position as 14 other teams within an extra couple of weeks. We just need to find the little areas to improve.
"We're so close and hopefully some new additions can get us one step closer to making a grand final."
The expectation at Redfern is so high that anything less than a grand final appearance this season will be considered a backward step, particularly if key players stay healthy.
Everybody’s heading to Magic Round
Adding to the pressure will be the pending departure of Bennett, who has enjoyed a 59.3 per cent winning success rate at the club but also has a 10-year gap between premierships hanging over his head.
"There's not a lot of chat or focus around it but everyone does realise that Wayne came down here from Brisbane to help us win a competition," Cook said.
"I don't want to waste his time and neither do the other boys want to. He's lived away from his kids and last year it was tough for him not to be able to go back to Brisbane to see them.
"We've just got to believe in him and follow his guidance and do what he says.
"Hopefully we can use that as motivation. There is an expectation around the team but I guess it's a privilege as well. Everyone knows we've got a good side."
While the addition of Benji Marshall and Josh Mansour will add experience, Cook believes Jai Arrow's arrival is vital to the forward pack.
"Something always happens around him, he's not just your up and down front-rower," Cook said.
"He's happy to put a bit of footwork on and whether it's a quick play-the-ball or offload, he creates opportunities.
"He's got a lot of leg speed around the ruck and some aggression, which is something we missed a little bit last year.
"He's also got a nice offload that has come out a little bit at training and I've been able to run off the back of it.
"It's all well and good at training but it needs to transfer to the game and hopefully it does."
Rabbitohs in 2021
To participate in the survey, you must be logged in to your NRL account.
Sign up to a FREE NRL Account and unlock this content. Creating an NRL Account is easy and will give you access to NRLTV, featured editorials, special ticketing offers, free competitions and much more.
Not sure? Learn more about an NRL Account.