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Latrell’s secret training weapon at forefront of Rabbitohs quest to go one better


A newfound secret weapon could be the difference that sees the South Sydney Rabbitohs holding up the premiership trophy this time around, as they set their sights on back-to-back grand final appearances.

While other NRL clubs are in the headlines with reports of infighting and disconnect, that drama seems a world away from the unity and cohesion that has taken over in the Burrow.

And as you watch the players complete their new after-training ritual of walking the length of Redfern Oval together, arms linked as one, you can just tell the bond of the squad is one of the biggest forces driving their success.

“It’s about coming together and connecting after a session. Trying to get that connection with all of the players. It seems to be working for us and we just kept doing it,” said veteran prop Mark Nicholls.

“About mid-year it started,” added hooker Damien Cook. “I’d missed a couple of training sessions; I was in Origin camp and then when I came back we started doing this walk. After every training session, we get a bit of connection walking up and down the field, the staff and the players.”

And it’s no surprise that one of the people behind the idea seems to be at the forefront of all the Bunnies’ fortunes – Latrell Mitchell.

“Latrell is always trying to pick up something to add to our training, and we can see what that does to us out there on the field,” said bench forward Hame Sele.  

“He’s definitely brought that to the team, and we are all feeling it at the moment. We are bonding together and just feeding off each other’s energy. It’s just the love that we have for each other. It’s such a tight brotherhood we have here at Souths.

“He is the biggest player in the game by far. And having him on our side takes us to another level, especially at this time of the year. It’s good to have him in there, he’s just amazing.”

The turnaround in the Rabbitohs fortunes undeniably started when Mitchell returned from injury. And despite what the opposing teams and fans think of the outlandish fullback, Souths are grateful he wears their famous cardinal and myrtle.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs is tackled by Luke Keary of the Roosters during the round 25 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 02, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“When you look across the dressing room and you know he’s on your team, it just gives you that extra confidence. He’s had a big impact on our team coming back, he was obviously injured the first half of the year and I think our recent results have reflected the influence that he has on this team,” said Nicholls.

“There are not many in the game that guys are scared of tackling, but I can imagine running out against Latrell, he just has that ability to beat player after player and almost look like he’s a man playing against boys.”

It seems the unbreakable bond was a key factor in the Rabbitohs getting the win against the Sydney Roosters on Sunday, in a highly emotionally charged match that saw seven players get sent to the sin bin.

“That’s the thing I love about this club, we all love each other, and we all back each other. It showed out there on the weekend, how we performed with two men down and we all stepped up for each other,” said Sele.

Souths have definitely clicked into gear at the right time of year, and despite all the attention that Mitchell receives, the talent and effort are spread right across the park.

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“Everyone’s really valuing what each individual brings to the team. A lot of us, especially as a forward pack, we understand we’ve got a really simple job to do – just run hard and defend well and get our team in a good position on the field to allow the likes of Cam (Graham) and Cody (Walker) to ice those moments on the back of shape,” said Cook.

“And that’s what happened on the weekend. It was quite a brutal game, but when we got in position, we got some good execution out the back, and they did the rest. So, everyone at the moment is valuing what they’re doing and bringing to the team.”

Having survived week one of the finals, the Rabbitohs now face the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium in the second elimination match of the round. After going down to them in golden point back in round 20, Cook is expecting another tight battle.

Nicho Hynes celebrates. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“No doubt it’ll be one like that again this weekend. Both teams are coming off big games in the first week of the finals too,” said Cook.

“We can’t let them dictate what we’re doing in defence or attack, we just have to make sure we stick to our process. Get to our points, run our shape and defend well together.

“And one thing on the Sharks, we can’t let them have easy outs from their own end, it’s got to be real disciplined, and they’ve got some great attacking weapons once they get in good ball. So, we need to make sure we don’t let them out of there.”

“They’ve had a really good year,” added Nicholls. “They are a really good team defensively. And then they’ve got guys like Nicho Hynes, who has a big chance of getting the Dally M medal, their back three are all good players too. And their forward pack, while not full of big names, all work really well together. And they are obviously well-coached. So, it’s going to be a big test for us.

“But we know what works for us. As a forward pack, if we can start the game fast and get on the front foot, our left edge with guys like Keanon (Koloamatangi) and Campbell Graham out on the right, there are just so many points in our team. So many superstars in our team.

“It also comes off the back of our defence. When we’ve lost it’s been because we have leaked too many points. The focus for us will be defence again this week.”

Souths have the advantage of having played at the newly reopened Allianz Stadium twice while Cronulla will be making their first appearance at the venue.

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon revealed on Friday he had decided against training on the new turf while Demetriou thinks their “local knowledge” would give them a slight advantage.

“It’s their home game but we’ve been there, we’re familiar with it. We know what’s coming,” Demetriou said. “Just understanding the size of the changing rooms, the warm-up areas. 

“All those little things that you’re familiar with that sometimes when you walk into a new stadium can distract you a little bit. Being familiar with that helps when we arrive. But all that stuff is all irrelevant once that whistle goes.”





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