Rugby League 2021 Rabbitohs Pre-Season

callmack1

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New recruits key for South Sydney to ‘win it for Wayne’ - Damien Cook: https://www.news.com.au/sport/nrl/n...k/news-story/04c24e74ccaafdd7d9437b5f0f04ef6b

Also, from Sporting News,

South Sydney primed to win NRL crown but entering final year of Premiership window, claims Cooper Cronk

South Sydney have everything they need to win the 2021 NRL title but won’t recover from the scars if they fall short for a fourth-straight season, according to Cooper Cronk.

The Rabbitohs have added Queensland Origin forward Jai Arrow, veteran Penrith winger Josh Mansour and iconic playmaker Benji Marshall to the squad that made the preliminary finals in 2020.

It was the third-straight season the Bunnies have been knocked out in the penultimate round.

Many pundits are predicting South Sydney will go all the way this season in what will be legendary coach Wayne Bennett’s final campaign at the helm.

Cronk added his voice to the chorus of critics who believe the Rabbitohs are genuine premiership contenders but warned another preliminary final exit could do irreparable damage to the current squad.

“They’re cherry ripe, the Bunnies are cherry ripe for the premiership,” Cronk told Fox League.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure, because if Wayne Bennett leaves he doesn’t have a great history of leaving clubs in good stead after he’s gone.

“So for me, this is the only year the Bunnies can win because going forward if (Damien) Cook, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker, that would mean they’ve failed in four prelim finals and that’s quite scarring, that can haunt players if you don’t get to the top of the mountain.

“I think Souths are cherry ripe and I think Wayne Bennett knows it, he’s done his think in the Origin last year and they will be cracking the whips when it’s needed.”

There were promising early signs for Rabbitohs fans in Saturday’s 10-10 draw between the Indigenous and Maori All Stars.

Latrell Mitchell, playing his first game since suffering a season-ending hamstring injury six months ago, set up Alex Johnston’s 64th-minute try for the Indigenous side.

Meanwhile, Marshall, who signed a one-year deal with the Bunnies this month, was among the best performers for the Maori side.

“It’s obviously great to have a guy like Latrell fully fit and playing the way he does,” Indigenous captain and Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker said.

“I think he showed in glimpses out there what he’s capable of and you can just sense a bit of excitement in the air and we get to play with him all year.

“We’re quite lucky to have a guy like him and I thought Benji was great too on the other side of the field and AJ (Johnston) as well, so exciting times.”
 
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callmack1

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Cook focused on Season 2021: https://www.rabbitohs.com.au/news/2021/02/23/cook-focused-on-season-2021/

‘I needed him to know his passes were sh*t’ - Benji sprays ‘shocked’ Bunnies teammate: https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nr...t/news-story/89574bae4cd5a5dc8068bdd61505da3e

There's this article from Sporting News which confirms Keaon's swith to the second row. However, it doesn't confirm whether he'll start the Season there or whether he'll be on the bench as a second rower,

Rabbitohs forward Keaon Koloamatangi full of confidence in new role for 2021

Wayne Bennett has an embarrassment of riches on his hands when it comes to the young forwards at the Rabbitohs.

One of the most exciting prospects in the crop is local product Keaon Koloamatangi and the master coach has a plan to get even more out of the 22-year-old in 2021.

Koloamatangi made his first-grade debut in round four last year, making a big impression through the middle of the park in his 14 games.

Though, in a pack reshuffle, Koloamatangi has been preparing for the new season in the second row and impressing his teammates along the way.

"I've been training in the backrow in the pre-season. Obviously that backrow spot is up for grabs since [Bayley Sironen] left," Koloamatangi told Sporting News.

"I grew up playing backrow my whole career until last year I played middle.

"I feel more comfortable on the edge and I've been training there with Cody and stuff but it's up to Wayne to choose me.

"There's a lot of competition there. We've got Jed Cartwright, we've got Jacob Host, they're solid players too. I wouldn't be mad if any of them got picked."

Koloamatangi revealed he knuckled down over the off-season, not allowing himself the temptations that come with a trip away.

He's also dropped a few kilos to help him adapt to the demands of the new role.

"When I go away I sort of get ahead of myself and just eat whatever and drink whatever, but I wanted to have a big year this year," he said.

"I lost about three kilos this pre-season and got my skinfolds down to the best they've ever been.

"It's been a bit shorter but still intense and I'm just trying to work my arse off and get a spot on the team.

"I think I'm heading in the right direction and it's probably the best I've ever felt.

"A lot of the elite backrowers play 80, so that's my goal. I know I can do that. That's where I feel most comfortable and where I think I can portray all my skills that I've got."

Koloamatangi has a couple of representative stars - Cody Walker and Dane Gagai - inside and outside of him to keep him honest on the left edge, but he's been given a big vote of confidence on the evidence so far.

Maroons star Gagai confirmed the youngster's level of application to improving his game.

"He’s looking unreal. He showed last year what he’s capable of, he’s been given a new role out on the edge there and he’s been training unbelievably," Gagai said.

"His work ethic, along with a couple of the other boys, is unreal. On days off they were coming in, doing extras, doing weights, he’ll be fine out there."

It's not just his teammates wrapping him, with Koloamatangi revealing Bennett has given him more of a license to express himself in attack.

"He's told me I look more confident every training session with the ball and he just tells me to keep being myself and don't be scared to throw a ball or run or whatever, he won't get mad," Koloamatangi said.

"He can see my confidence is coming and that's probably one of my biggest strengths. It is pretty cool seeing his belief in me."

Souths will put the final touches on their preparations when they meet the Dragons in the Charity Shield on Saturday before getting their 2021 campaign underway against reigning premiers Melbourne on Thursday, March 11.


Also from Sporting News, this confirms Murray will start the year at lock,

Cam Murray happy to get a clear run at lock after 2020 'experiment'

South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett appeared to concede the 'experiment' to convert Cam Murray from a lock to backrower didn't work after persevering through the early rounds of 2020.

Murray was eventually moved from the edge back to the middle, somewhere he feels far more comfortable and is hoping to make the position his own again after taking out Dally M Lock of the Year in 2019.

Ahead of the new campaign, the NSW Origin representative is keen to make a run at his preferred role with a full pre-season behind him.

"I’m always more confident playing a position that I’m more used to than something else," Murray told Sporting News.

"I was more than happy to do it last year. Wayne told me that’s the best position he sees me playing for the team and I guess I like to see myself as an unselfish team player and at that point my full focus was playing backrow and doing what I needed to do for the team and working with the dynamics that we had that year.

"This year is the same - Wayne says that I’m starting in the middle and that’s where my full focus is going.

"I’m a little bit more confident I guess than I was last year because I’m transitioning into a position that I feel a little bit more comfortable in and feel like I play my best footy at."

The 23-year-old said Bennett was the one who made the call to move him into the second row last year after the club lost both John Sutton and Sam Burgess to retirement at the end of 2019.

Boasting one of the best crops of young forwards in the competition, Bennett will again face some tough calls when it comes to selection.

"It was Wayne that drove it and he obviously had an agenda behind it," Murray said of his positional switch.

"I guess that experiment didn’t really turn out the way that Wayne sort of saw it turning out and the way that we all wanted it to turn out.

"We adjusted last year and this year I’ve been training in the middle mostly and really looking forward to finding my home back in the middle there and doing my best for the team."

The arrival of Jai Arrow at Souths has added even more quality to the pack, with the Queenslander expected to join Junior Tatola in the front row.

Incumbent edge forward Jaydn Su'A will likely retain his place on the right, while the departure of Bayley Sironen has opened up a spot on the left.

Keaon Koloamatangi looks like being Bennett's solution, seeing the 22-year-old converted from a bench middle forward to a backrower.

Bennett typically opts for four forwards on his bench, leaving Tom Burgess, Liam Knight, Hame Sele, Patrick Mago, Mark Nicholls, Jed Cartwright and Jacob Host among those battling out for a place on the interchange bench.

Murray said the competition is promoting accountability in the squad.

"There is competition for spots and they all know that so they have to be at their best every training session to make sure that they improve and impress the coaching staff to get a position there," he said.

"It's unfortunate that a couple of them are going to have to miss out every week but there’s been some real good healthy competition there and it’s going to be a tough gig for the coaches to let a few them know that they’re gonna miss out in round one."

Souths will put the final touches on their preparations when they meet the Dragons in the Charity Shield on Saturday before getting their 2021 campaign underway against reigning premiers Melbourne on Thursday, March 11.
 
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PortRabbit

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From reports I've read, we currently have Su'a out with injury and he may not be back until rd. 3. Jed is also injured with a groin strain but I don't think is too serious. And the permanent rehab bloke Burns is out for a number of weeks, not sure on what the breakdown with his body is this time. Personally, I think Burns should give it away.
 

Southy

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From reports I've read, we currently have Su'a out with injury and he may not be back until rd. 3. Jed is also injured with a groin strain but I don't think is too serious. And the permanent rehab bloke Burns is out for a number of weeks, not sure on what the breakdown with his body is this time. Personally, I think Burns should give it away.
Burns probably still recovering from last season's injury.
.
 
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Rabbits 21

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From reports I've read, we currently have Su'a out with injury and he may not be back until rd. 3. Jed is also injured with a groin strain but I don't think is too serious. And the permanent rehab bloke Burns is out for a number of weeks, not sure on what the breakdown with his body is this time. Personally, I think Burns should give it away.
Apparently Jed has had surgery on a bulging disc, saw a photo of him on Facebook in hospital.
 

callmack1

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How a sledge from Wayne broke the ice for Mansour: https://www.nrl.com/news/2021/02/24/how-a-sledge-from-wayne-broke-the-ice-for-mansour/

From News Corp, this is music to my ears,

NRL 2021: Souths star Dane Gagai plans to silence those critics who suggest he saves his best for Origin

Wayne Bennett has a new vision for South flyer Dane Gagai … and it’s set to silence those critics who suggest he saves his best performances for State of Origin.

Dane Gagai has revealed how a significant change to South Sydney’s playbook will finally kill off that collection of criticisms, and jokes, about his best football only coming for Queensland.

In an exciting announcement for Rabbitohs fans — and potentially, SuperCoach pundits — Gagai has told News Corp how a series of attacking changes made by coach Wayne Bennett over summer will see him more involved than in any of his previous three seasons at Redfern.

The 30-year-old also declared himself ready to silence those critics who believe his best performances are reserved for the Origin arena, especially after yet another outstanding campaign last November saw the Mackay product help lead a severely understrength Queensland to the greatest interstate upset ever.

During the series, a host of fans, commentators, even Maroons greats marvelled at the indigenous centre’s ability to lift at Origin time.

“But I’m sick of that myth,” Gagai said this week.

“And it’s something I’m ready to put to bed.

“While I don‘t think it’s right, I know the talk is out there.

“And now I’m ready to end it.”

Better, he has the support of Bennett.

That winningest of NRL coaches who, last October, got to see exactly what fuels Gagai for Origin after triumphantly returning himself to coach Queensland to that emphatic series win.

While the Souths No.4 was giving little away regarding exact alterations to the Bunnies attack, he confirmed changes would give him “more opportunity to get my hands on the ball” than ever before.

Exactly what that means will be revealed in greater detail this Saturday evening, when Souths challenge for the annual Charity Shield against St George Illawarra in Mudgee.

Quizzed on suggestions he saved his best performances for the Maroons, Gagai said: “In Origin, there are different structures and different game plans.

“Teams want different things.

“So it’s not that I go to a different level, I just get some (different) opportunities playing there.

“When I first came to Souths in 2018 (under coach Anthony Seibold), one of the game plans meant the ball didn’t get shifted much my way.

“And that’s fine.

“Because I will always do my job for the team.

“Whatever the coach asks of me, I’ll do.

“But I believe this year is going to be an exciting one … we’ve focused on a lot of (new) things and I believe I’m going to get a lot of opportunity. I’m excited.”

Importantly, Gagai stressed he was not criticising any previous Bunnies campaign.

“I’m definitely not saying there was anything wrong with our game plans,” he said.

“Because they got us to three consecutive preliminary finals.

“And as I said before, whatever job I’m given I’ll do it to the best of my ability.

“Doesn’t matter if it’s a kick chase, taking hit ups, whatever … I’ll do it.

“But this year I believe there is going to be more opportunity for me to get my hands on the ball. And the more I can get my hands on the ball, the more effective I feel I can be.”

Asked if the changes were something he had spoken to Bennett about, either after the Origin series or over summer, Gagai continued: “I haven‘t spoken to Wayne because it’s not about me.

“I’m not sitting here saying I want the ball so I can do this or that.

“All I want to do is win.

“So if you tell me to do something because you feel it will help us win, I’ll do it.

“I just want to win a grand final.”

A mainstay of the Queensland Origin side for six years — and Wally Lewis medallist, from the wing, in 2017 — Gagai was outstanding for the Maroons in last year’s series, particularly in the opening game. In 16 appearances for Queensland he has also scored 11 tries.

“But a lot of things come into it,” Gagai continued.

“Origin is based on three games. So you can have one or two good games and everyone says how great you go.

“But two blinders at a club level, especially over the course of an entire NRL year, your season has to be based on a lot more than that.

“Still, it’s not like I just turn up to Queensland camp at Origin time.

“To make that team, I have to be playing well. I have to be playing well for Souths to get there.”
 

pure steel 111

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Mitchell's interview on the team's site and his general comments are heartening indeed. That fella is truly something special: he can run fast, give great passes & assists, place-kick at around 75% strike rate, punt deep and strategically and knock incoming danger over the sideline. Plus, for a 23 years old he appears very mature and very focused on his objectives for the club. In that interview he looks so big its scary. His goal at The Crisps seems clear enough: Win a Premiership playing FB and become the #1 at that position. Crowe said it a year ago. Mitchell is one of the club's greatest ever signings, and a key turning point in its future direction. Suaalli has departed but there is Mitchell, just as good if not better!!
 

pure steel 111

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From reports I've read, we currently have Su'a out with injury and he may not be back until rd. 3. Jed is also injured with a groin strain but I don't think is too serious. And the permanent rehab bloke Burns is out for a number of weeks, not sure on what the breakdown with his body is this time. Personally, I think Burns should give it away.
Burns is crazy to continue. The club is even crazier to continue with him.
 

callmack1

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Benny Barber - Supercoach Wayne shows new tolerance for Rabbitoh’s mullet: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/be...ows-tolerance-for-mullet-20210225-p575va.html

From News Corp,

NRL 2021: Josh Mansour opens up on Penrith Panthers exit, Wayne Bennett relationship

Most people rarely see Wayne Bennett crack a smile, but Josh Mansour reveals he’s actually a practical joker behind the scenes.

Sometime in Mudgee this weekend, Wayne Bennett will feel a tap on his left shoulder.

Which is where, instinctively, he will turn.

Only nobody will be there.

“Get him every time,” Josh Mansour grins, referencing that gag older than even Bennett himself.

“Maybe it’s because Wayne is so tall.

“Or I’m so short.

“But that tap on the shoulder from the opposite side … I get him every time.”

Which surely comes with some risk, right?

“Oh, Wayne stirs me more than I do him,” South Sydney’s newest winger continues. “Especially on the training field.

“Which is funny because before signing here, we’d never had a meeting, a coffee, nothing.”

You never spoke once with Bennett before inking the deal that saved your NRL career?

“Didn’t speak with Wayne at all,” Mansour reveals. “Only after signing my contract, we had a brief chat over the phone.

“I said ‘ah, do we need to catch up or anything?’.

“Wayne just said ‘nah, I’ve heard enough about you’.”

Which is where Mansour expected said conversation to finish.

Yet the premiership coach, he had one more thing to say.

“Before hanging up,” the winger continues, “Wayne goes ‘Although if you think you’re going to come here and be a joker, you won’t last long’.

“That was our first conversation ever so I was ‘ahhh … haha … ummm …’, which is when he added: ‘Only I can be the joker’.”

At which point, Mansour’s heart started beating again.

“And ever since, we’ve kicked it off,” the 30-year-old says. “It’s always something I’ve wondered about: Why do players love Wayne Bennett so much? What makes him so special?

“Now, I know.”

Which matters for Mansour.

Big time.

Especially when only four months ago, via text, and just 48 hours after playing in an NRL grand final, he was invited to a meeting where, you now know, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary and GM Matt Cameron revealed his services were no longer required.

Which to be fair, is how modern sport goes.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.

But still, it doesn’t make receiving that empty cardboard box any easier.

Or not for a Panther who, seemingly tattooed to that club he represented for nine seasons and 158 games, also owned the type of standing that, when re-signed in 2018, saw him receive a fireworks display — yes, fireworks — as he walked, suited up, onto Panthers Stadium before a Thursday Night Football game.

“Gus’s idea,” Mansour recalls, referencing former club boss Phil Gould. “He’s the best.

“I was out injured and, for that announcement, walked onto the field as the boys were coming off, having just finished warm up.

“So here I am coming out, fireworks exploding everywhere and Jimmy Maloney, he just looks at me and says ‘what the f... is going on?’.”

Yet that same fireworks deal, for three more years, never even reached its conclusion.

“Which was tough,” Mansour admits.

“When I first received that text from Ivan to go for coffee, I was really hungover.

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“It was only two days after the grand final, late in the afternoon and I remember showing my wife and asking ‘is this weird?’.

“She said no, but still it felt wrong.

“So then I contacted a couple of the boys, but they all said the same thing, that I was overthinking it.”

Yet he wasn’t.

“Arriving next morning (at the cafe), I’m thinking it’s me and Ivan,” he continues. “But then, I see Matt rock up at the same time and I know. Straight away, I know.

“I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.”

So as for next time you see them, most likely in Round 11?

“If we all cross paths again, no hard feelings,” Mansour insists. “I had a great ride there.

“But if you ever asked how my time at Penrith would end, I never thought it would be like that.

“To suddenly find out I wasn’t wanted, I really questioned myself.

“Wondered ‘Is it me? Is it my playing ability? What’s wrong?’.

“With all that going through my head, I was also trying to reaffirm to myself that I was playing well, that I do belong in the NRL … that I’m worth it.”

Asked how quickly reassurance arrives following a Bennett contract offer, Mansour replies: “Instantly”.

Better, he’s back at the Bunnies.

A club where this most recognised of NRL faces not only earned U/20s Player of the Year, or a crack in the 2011 Charity Shield, but also showcased a fight that has typified so much of his life.

“When I was first here trying to break into the NRL, it was Nathan Merritt and Fetuli Talanoa on the wings,” says the Bunnie returning for Saturday’s Charity Shield match against St George Illawarra in Mudgee.

“Then it was Dylan Farrell, Kane Morgan, Jimmy Roberts — all while I’m watching on going ‘ah, am I next?’.

“It was ugly.”

Still, Mansour fought.

Just like when punted by the Panthers before Christmas, or when his ACL went in England with the Kangaroos; like when continually overlooked as a Canterbury junior, dropped to reggies in 2019 or even after copping those five facial fractures which, from a stray boot, almost saw him lose an eye.

Which sounds a little like another Bennett recruit, doesn’t it?

“Funnily enough, I’ve always wanted to play with Benji Marshall,” he says.

“And when my management was talking to Wests Tigers, I was really disappointed he wasn’t going to be there. Yet a few weeks later, here we both are at Souths … rugby league moving in mysterious ways.”

Quizzed on that ability to endure, Mansour says: “From my childhood, I guess.

“Growing up in Housing Commission with a single mum, nothing was easy.

“Life wasn’t easy.

“Mum struggled to put food on the table and even to this day, she still lives there.

“While I’ve tried to get her out, she will never leave because it’s who she is. And she’s happy.

“So (that fight), it’s embedded in me.

“I’ve always wanted to prove I’m worthy enough.”

Which is how it is again now.

“For sure,” he insists. “With change, you feel like you have to prove yourself all over again.

“And that’s where the challenge lies.

“But it’s funny how things can work out, especially coming full circle to South Sydney.

“A club where, and this is hard to explain, but I’ve always had a connection.”

Enough perhaps, to earn a fireworks display for your NRL debut in coming weeks?

“Ah, no,” Mansour grins. “I don’t think that’s ever happening again.”



Also, from Fox Sports,

MURRAY’S CLASSY OFFER TO YOUNG GUN’S FAMILY

South Sydney forward Cameron Murray continues to enhance his reputation as one of rugby league’s genuine good guys.

The Bunnies made the six-plus hour road trip to Griffith for a trial match last weekend where a host of the club’s young guns carved it up against a Group 20 Invitational side.

One of the Bunnies outstanding local juniors is teenage front-row forward Davvy Moale who was playing his first open age game in the red and green.

A host of Moale’s extended family had made the trek to the Riverina town to watch his debut and were planning on returning to Sydney the same night.

When Murray got wind of their 14-hour round trip plans, the South Sydney forward immediately offered up his motel room so they could crash the night.

With the rest of the accommodation in Griffith fully booked, Murray instead bunked down in the same room as Bunnies captain Adam Reynolds.

The gesture shows the South Sydney lock is as much of a class act off the field as he is on it.
 

callmack1

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A few comments from a guy on another forum,

The boys were doing opposed training sessions yesterday. The first grade side was as announced.

Su’A was training is the reserves side. He had his arm bandaged. Apparently hyperextended his elbow.

Knight should be right for round one. Just a head knock the other week.

Benji did most of the session as hooker and Josh Cook lock.

Jai Arrow was mainly playing left edge.

Josh Mansour was on the right wing.

Things that stood out to me. Mitchell is just a freak. His combination with Cody and AJ is going to be lethal.

Jaxson Paulo has has some skill about him. Some of the passes he was catching was just brilliant. Even some using his feet.

Jacob Host is bigger than I thought. Very solid up top. He was playing left side and Keaon the right. Keaon was running some great lines.

Damien Cook was throwing some poor passes. There was the usual crash ball to Burgess that was put down. Have to say from what I saw yesterday the ball distribution by Benji was so much better.

One thing I took out of the all stars game was how good AJs hands were. They were doing quite a bit of defending kicks. AJ didn’t miss a beat.

At the end a few players were kicking for goal from the sideline. Taane Milne didn’t miss one. Latrell missed his first couple. Then changed kicking tees and nailed them all. He also nailed a field goal from 45 out. More impressive was Jai Arrow nailing one from the sideline 50 out.