It’s been a frustrating start to the pre-season for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and their new coach Wayne Bennett. The squad has returned to training but will be missing several of their big stars either to injury, international duty or, in the case of Damien Cook and Dane Gagai, a late return from their own exploits with the national team.
At least the youngsters were assembled for the first session, and the plan to promote youth has continued with news of two new contract extensions from within their junior ranks.
It’s been confirmed that Cameron Murray and Campbell Graham have signed new deals that will commit their futures to South Sydney until 2021. Both are products of the youth system at the Rabbitohs and general manager of football Shane Richardson believes that both have what it takes to become NRL regulars.
We can expect to see both Murray and Graham play some part in the upcoming season but should the South Sydney side be looking for more senior reinforcements before the campaign gets underway next March?
Having made it through the regular season, the Rabbitohs looked nicely placed for a slot in the Grand Final before losing out at the penultimate stage to cross city rivals the Sydney Roosters. The Roosters went on to claim the big prize and will start as favourites in bet365’s NRL betting markets for a successful title defence.
South Sydney are, meanwhile, joint third favourites along with the Brisbane Broncos but while there are still some four months to go until the first ball is kicked in anger, their pre-season preparations have hardly got off to an ideal start.
Among those missing from the early training sessions is skipper Greg Inglis who is using the time to recover from double arm surgery. It’s been an unhappy period for the 31 year old who lost the national captaincy almost as quickly as it was handed to him at the end of September.
Inglis is due in court in relation to alleged motoring offences so he would be well served to get any distractions out of the way before focusing on a return to the Rabbitohs squad and a productive 2019.
Sam Burgess will also be missing from the first training camp due to injury concerns although both he and Inglis are expected to be fit and ready to play a full part by the New Year. Burgess’ younger twin brothers Tom and George will also be missing although in their case they were recently involved in England’s international series with New Zealand.
Completing the list of absentees are Cook and Gagai who should be first to return to the fold. The news regarding Cameron Murray and Campbell Graham shows that the future may be bright at ANZ Stadium but Rabbitohs fans may have been hoping for signings of a more senior nature. Last year’s progression to the Preliminary Finals suggests that South Sydney can go one better in 2019 but pre-season preparation hasn’t offered the perfect start to a long campaign.