Phil Rothfield believes Souths should be careful in their negotiations with Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell, while Wayne Bennett circles around and hit the call to hook up rookie Lachlan Ilias.
The Rabbitohs were blown from the park by the Dragons in round 15 and now face the toughest home game from one of the top eight teams in a bid to make it to the finals.
In addition to their battle on the pitch, the Rabbitohs have their two best players, Walker and Mitchell, who will expire next season and will be free to negotiate with NRL rivals from November 1. Rothfield believes the club is in a fight to keep both players.
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“Souths have Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell under contract for next year,” Rothfield said on NRL 360.
But from November they will be able to talk to rival clubs as a package or alone.
“There is a man in Brisbane named Wayne Bennett who loves him (Walker) and is looking for a playmaker.
“The problem Souths has is that they have a history of blowing up negotiations.
“They had Adam Reynolds and they had Alex Johnston and they all went pear-shaped, so they shouldn’t be doing this so publicly and with not so much drama.”
Meanwhile, James Hooper believes the decision to scapegoat Ilias for their horror show against the Dragons was the wrong one and could have a lasting negative effect on the young playmaker.
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“They were rotten in that first half against St George Illawarra. I can’t remember the last time South played that badly.
“The big story of the game, of course, was that coach Jason Demetriou made the huge decision around young halfback Lachlan Ilias.
“I have to say I didn’t agree. At that stage of the game to hook up with an evolving playmaker I think it shatters his confidence and I think some scar tissue will roll in.”
Paul Kent wondered why there was so much focus on Ilias’ performance against the Dragons, while senior playmaker Walker was also off his game and frustrated with losing his head at key moments.
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“Why so much about Iliad’s performance and not Cody Walker’s performance last night?” said Kent.
“Cody Walker is the senior playmaker.”
“That’s the million dollar question,” Hooper replied.
“I can answer that and I’ve said in columns that they did the wrong thing by hooking the kid in the 28th minute,” Rothfield said.
“What he doesn’t have and Cody Walker does have is form. Last year he was number 3 in the Dally M’s.
“You don’t drag Cody, but I wouldn’t have dragged the halfback either.”
Kent believes Walker needs to show more leadership and change his volatile approach to have a more positive impact on his teammates, who desperately need him to show the way forward.
“Cody needs to understand that he is a leader and a senior part of that team and he needs to put himself above his own actions at this point,” said Kent.
“From the point of view of some of the irritability we see from him.
“He needs to curb that, if only to set a good example for the guys around him, because it doesn’t seem to have a positive impact on his team.”
Rothfield believes the final spot in the top eight could come down to the Rabbitohs and the Roosters Round 25 clash to open the new stadium at Moore Park in light of Souths’ horror run home.
“The Rabbitohs are on 16 game points,” said Rothfield.
“I’ve had a closer look at their draw. I think they need 26 to get into the top eight this year.
“Their draw is the most difficult of all contenders. They have to play Storm. They have to play Penrith. They have to play the Cowboys. They then have Parramatta twice and then roosters and sharks.
“That huge game at the new stadium on round 25 could well be the first week of the final for the Roosters and the Rabbitohs. It’s a monster game.
“They will both have to win to make the eight. With that draw and they’ve had their farewells, I don’t see them (Souths) making the eight.”
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