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Nicholls no star but he is in Bennett's eyes

They're the yin and yang of South Sydney - representative star Latrell Mitchell and respected clubman Mark Nicholls - and the role played by each this week could determine whether the Bunnies can hand Wayne Bennett a departing premiership.

Mitchell was on the sidelines for Sunday's tense 32-24 win over the Bulldogs at Cbus Super Stadium after pulling up sore following Wednesday night's final Origin clash.

But Bennett believes resting him could hand the Rabbitohs a vital leg-up in their bid to find another gear as the NRL season reaches its crescendo.

Souths were tested by the Bulldogs, who pushed to an unlikely 12-10 half-time lead before conceding eight points while Lachlan Lewis was in the sin bin at the start of the second half following a bizarre altercation with Cody Walker.

Tested by a mounting injury toll and with the Dogs biting back, it was Nicholls who scored the match-winner in his 100th NRL game.

Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Bulldogs

Far from just a journeyman, Bennett said the 31-year-old front-rower "epitomizes what the game is all about" and spurred his clubmates on Sunday.

"It was Mark Nicholls' 100th game and he's a pretty important player in the club and they all respect him enormously, so they didn't want to let him down," Bennett said.

"He's not your natural footballer, he's just a guy that's loved it from the time he's a little boy and still loves it and loves being a part of the team and he's made himself into a pro.

Lewis sent to the sin bin amid crazy scenes

"When I came to Souths I asked Sam [Burgess] who he thought I should keep - because I didn't know all the players and I certainly didn't know Mark.

"And Sam said to me: 'Keep him coach, he's good value and the boys want to play with him. He doesn't get a lot of opportunity at the moment but I'm sure you'll give him some opportunity'.

"I think he's been in the first-grade squad ever since I've arrived here."

Bennett originally named all four of his Origin players - Mitchell, Dane Gagai, Cam Murray and Damien Cook - for the Bulldogs clash but when his fullback pulled up sore following training on Saturday he decided to rest him.

"He's such a valuable commodity," Bennett said.

"I thought we could get this job done without him, so I took the risk.

"It's probably the best I've had a club come through a State of Origin series, we had up to seven players missing at some stages and it really takes a toll.

"I didn't want to keep those [other] boys out there all night tonight but I had to with the injury toll and what was happening.

"But I did take the risk with Latrell. We've got a real club here and they all put their hand up tonight.

That left edge again for Souths, but not your usual suspect

"This is the making of this season when you can get these games in the middle of an Origin season and win them, it just sets you up for the end of the year."

For every Mitchell there's a Nicholls though and Bennett knows it will take the effort of all his men to threaten for a premiership.

"[Players like Nicolls] are invaluable, they do make the team," Bennett said.

Walker places a kick for Host

"I've got no doubt his forward mates played for him in the second half out there tonight because they think so highly of him.

"He's not only a good person on the field, he's a wonderful man off the field as well.

"Rugby league's got a lot of them in our ranks and we never get to hear about them."

Acknowledgement of Country

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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