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Not since a sunny day in March before the season started has Adam Reynolds uttered an angry word in public, despite having cause to fill a book with them.

Wayne Bennett meantime perfected his weekly grumpy old man routine long ago.

Short, sharp, dismissive when he needs or, moreover, wants to be.

Equally when it suits though, Bennett takes a sniper's aim before unloading the entire magazine, smiling on the inside all the while.

The Rabbitohs have been a different kind of beast this year, increasingly so as the season's worn on.

Aggressive from the outset, bordering on arrogant at times, it may well be the difference between a grand final and a grand final qualifier.

Dissecting the war of words between Bennett and Cleary

Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker have long figured it out. Playing in cranky pants - all cut-throat, competitive and confrontational - is when they play their best.

Mitchell's sublime State of Origin return came as he went about emphatically proving he belongs on the game's biggest stage.

Overcooking a bullish Bunnies attitude and a second's misjudgement has in turn cost him a grand final and Joey Manu a badly busted cheekbone.

But in his absence Bennett quietly assembled the Rabbitohs' defences, taking note if not names of the masses that said Souths' season was done with Mitchell's.

Bennett hits out at critics of Rabbitohs' record

As Andrew Johns called out in The Sydney Morning Herald, "Souths were a team that put 60 per cent of its effort into attack, 40 per cent into defence, but they've flipped it since Latrell's suspension."

Every heavy hit they've dished out since has come laden with a sense of 'get that up you'.

Most of Bennett's weekly media conferences have felt the same - the veteran coach spoiling for a fight or smacking down a question often relating to spotfires that he may have played a part in lighting.

Leading into last week's clash against Manly, he noted that South Sydney's 64 wins over the past four regular season games were on par with Penrith's 65 and the Roosters 63.

"I just know what they have achieved but it suits us to be undersold," he said.   

After an utter trouncing of the Sea Eagles cleared the Rabbitohs' preliminary final hurdle, Bennett turned his post-match press conference on the Broncos.

The withering take-down ensured he dominated the post-game narrative rather than Reynolds' groin injury, as has long been Bennett's way.

Wily Wayne keeping Souths relaxed for prelim clash

But his ugly exit from Red Hill genuinely hurt the veteran coach three years ago, the contrasting fortunes of his current and former club since fostering an equally genuine sense of vindication for the 71-year-old.

"If I thought I was washed up as a coach, I wouldn't coach another day, because I'd let people down," Bennett shot in the bowels of Brisbane's home ground.

"I'll determine that. Nobody is going to determine it for me. If I want to coach, I'll be a coach."

Bennett's brutal honesty with himself will dictate when he finishes coaching

Without a hint of irony, he had all but retired Benji Marshall by the end of his press conference.

Marshall has since denied Sunday's decider doubles as his grand finale.

All season long he has refused to cite his messy Wests Tigers exit, or Canterbury's pulling of a contract in December, as added fuel for a lifelong competitive fire.

It doesn't quite wash though. Not when the implication of both knockbacks came that Marshall was, per his own Instagram post, a "washed up old bloke" as he thanked Souths for taking a shot on him.

Benji's overlooked resilience his proudest trait

Similar suggestions left members of Adam Reynolds' camp indignant earlier in the year, offence taken at talk he was growing injury-prone.

Bennett pointed out his halfback was averaging 22 games a year for the past decade.

Reynolds simply grinned and turned in another performance that questioned the prevailing wisdom of the Rabbitohs' roster call – a one-year extension was all the club could offer.

Only once this season has Reynolds snapped, and it came between between breezy drop punts at the NRL launch in Rozelle.

Cooper Cronk's assessment of his contract stand-off was dangled in front of Reynolds with recorders rolling.

"Who cares," he fumed.

"I don't care what he thinks of me or his thoughts. I haven't had anything to do with him. If it comes from my coaches or someone within the club, I would care."

In his new role as arguably the most astute of TV's talking heads, Cronk had rightly pointed out, and Reynolds rightly conceded, that three times he had taken them to a grand final qualifier and no further.

For someone who didn't care, it sure sounded like it when Reynolds fired off with: "one player doesn't solve the outcome of a game".

"[Cronk] should know that from the [2018] grand final – they pretty much did it without him."

As conjecture around his future rolled on and Reynolds fielded double the interview requests of any teammate including Mitchell, never again did he sound like he had a point to prove.

He simply did it.

One week he was kissing the Bunnies badge after running for a try, then banging home a 43-metre, two-point field goal against his future employers the next.

The effect of Reynolds' groin issue come grand final day

He now has 80 minutes left in his cardinal and myrtle career. The great irony considering those who questioned his long-term fitness, is that he still faces a pre-grand final fitness test.

Like Bennett, Marshall and the rest of the Rabbitohs though, his point has already been plenty proven.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.

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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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