THE South Sydney Rabbitohs have got a delicate $6 million balancing act going on as the club attempts to lock down the key playmaking quartet of Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Damien Cook and Lachlan Ilias long-term.
Mitchell’s form over the last month has been completely off the charts and given the South Sydney fullback and his great mate Walker are considered a package deal the Bunnies are going to need to sharpen their negotiating pencil.
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The way Latrell has sparked South Sydney going on a four-game winning streak for the first time this season has once-again underlined how the gun fullback is in the same league as Tommy Trbojevic, Cameron Munster, Nathan Cleary, Jason Taumalolo and James Tedesco as a $1 million-a-season plus player.
This is where it gets interesting.
As much as South Sydney want to try and get the key playmakers signed prior to November 1 don’t be surprised if the star duo of Mitchell and Walker are in no rush.
They can take their time and let their football do the talking as the Rabbitohs try to kick into September.
It’s hard to imagine South Sydney without Mitchell and Walker and it’s hard to see the duo wanting to leave the Redfern club.
But it’s going to be a delicate balancing act for Souths CEO Blake Solly as the Rabbitohs steady themselves to make a run into the finals.
Hooker Cook is also seeking a three-year extension for 2024 and beyond but in reality it will probably end up being a two-year deal with an option for a third season.
The Bunnies also want to go down a similar path to the one they’ve gone with club champions Sam Burgess and John Sutton and ensure Cook remains around the Redfern club in a professional capacity beyond his NRL career.
Cook, 31, has a sports science degree and South Sydney values him as a key member of the red and green club.
Rookie halfback Ilias is also in talks about a contract extension beyond 2024 and given the way he’s developed over the course of his opening season in the NRL South Sydney are busy trying to retain the young gun no.7.
The Bunnies playmakers are all signed until the end of 2023 and the club has made it clear all four will be at Redfern next season.
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TIGERS LET OFF STEAM AFTER BUNKER STITCH-UP
THE Wests Tigers were spotted enjoying a couple of well-earned cold drinks at Townsville nightspot The Mad Cow last Sunday night.
We can’t begrudge the Tigers playing group wanting to let off some steam after the complete stitch-up that unfolded in the final minute of the Cowboys loss.
The Tigers have taken a lot of kicks this year – the majority of them due to the way the basketball case club is managed – but in this instance the club was completely done over.
What makes the tough biscuit even harder to swallow is the way they remain anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder in 16th position trying to avoid the wooden spoon.
If they’d rightfully been awarded the two points for the upset of the season then Wests Tigers would have moved into 15th position on 10 points.
It might sound trivial for the high-flying clubs but if it ultimately proves the difference between the Tigers copping the spoon or not then it’s a monumental stuff up.
Good on the Tigers for trying to get on the front foot with the NRL.
But we had a good laugh at demanding transcripts from the bunker.
This is the same club who wouldn’t release the all-encompassing, no-stone-unturned internal review from the end of last season.
Hello? Pot, kettle?
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HEAT ON HOOK … AS MAGUIRE DEJA VU LOOMS
DRAGONS coach Anthony Griffin’s call to sack his assistant coaches for next season is an all-too-familiar tune.
Axed Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire went down a similar road at the end of last season before ultimately being terminated midway through this year.
Red V coach Griffin made the hard line call to move on attack coach Matt Head and defense coach Peter Gentle this week without providing a whole lot of reasoning.
They’ll remain in their roles until the end of the season but there’s no question it’s a sign there’s plenty of movement going on behind-the-scenes at St George Illawarra.
Reading between the lines it appears Griffin is far from safe. The Dragons have a hard run home meeting three top four sides in the Cowboys, Cronulla and Brisbane, fellow top eight contenders the Raiders in Canberra and then Gold Coast and the Wests Tigers.
It’s a tough road for them to make the top eight and word is the heat will be on Griffin should they miss the cut.
One name we continue to hear linked with a return to St George Illawarra is 2010 premiership-winner Dean Young.
The Cowboys have been super-impressed with what Young has done in terms of the club’s defense over the course of the last two years.
BELLAMY’S BIG BID FOR DOUEIHI
THE phone calls were running hot between Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and Wests Tigers director of football Tim Sheens this week as the Purple Reign were in hot pursuit of outside backs.
These two go back 34 years to when Bellamy was a player at the Canberra Raiders and Sheens arrived as the coach who steered the club to back-to-back premierships in 1989 and 1990.
Ultimately the pair agreed on Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma going down to join the Storm’s run into September to gain some exposure to playing in the finals for the first time in his 175-NRL game career.
But that wasn’t before the Storm made a huge pitch to try and land Adam Doueihi on loan for the remainder of the season for the same reason – to gain some exposure to playing in the big end-of-season games.
Sheens was all for the idea before the Tigers management got wind of it and put the kybosh on it.
Plenty of rival clubs were raising an eyebrow at Melbourne’s ruthless pursuit of replacement players prior to the August 1 deadline.
We like the cutthroat approach but can see the flip side argument of why should the struggling clubs release their best talent to help improve the Storm.
HOW ROBBO TALKED HIS WAY OUT OF FINE
PLENTY of clubs raised eyebrows when Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson escaped being sanctioned after unloading on the match officials when the Chooks were beaten 26-18 in the round 16 clash against premiers Penrith.
Turns out Robinson mounted an extremely strong case to NRL CEO Andrew Abdo behind-the-scenes about why he should escape punishment.
The Roosters were on the wrong end of some highly contentious calls throughout the loss prompting Robinson to unload on referee Gerard Sutton post-game.
Robinson simply stated the performance from Sutton ‘wasn’t good enough’ – particularly a call to penalize Sam Verrills on the stroke of halftime for what was an innocuous tackle.
It proved a huge momentum swing with Panthers backrower Viliame Kikau scoring from the ensuing set to go to a 14-6 lead.
The NRL was initially looking at hitting the Roosters coach with a fine before Robinson submitted a case file highlighting all the match official errors from the match.
The key to three-time premiership-winner Robinson’s defense was that he wasn’t questioning the integrity of the officials – he was simply stating the facts.