By Brad Greenshields
Having won six of their last eight matches, South Sydney are now looking forward to a successful 2006 season where they can realistically make the goal of reaching the finals.
Rabbitohs' pair John Sutton and Joe Williams were in Coffs Harbour last week keeping an eye on proceedings at the National Under 18s touch titles and were asked by a lot of the championships participants about the 'Bunnies' resurgence towards the end of the season.
"All the boys just stuck in there," Sutton said.
"It's a 26 round competition and we had a bit of a lapse at the start but all the boys wanted to finish strong as we knew we weren't all going to play together again.
"So we finished off the season well and we're very happy with the way we finished."
One man who's been given a lot of credit for having South Sydney finish only five points from the finals is their coach Shaun McRae.
One of England's most successful coaches in recent years, McRae looks to have finally put his stamp on the team and Williams agrees.
"It was a bit of a learning curve for 'Bomber' and the rest of the coaching staff as they didn't know many of the players and of course they didn't know each other," he said.
"It was going to take a lot of time and hopefully next year will be an even better season to come."
Even though the Rabbitohs' season ended only three weeks ago, both Williams and Sutton have already had their post-season meetings with McRae discussing the plans that need to be put into place for next year.
"We've already sat in meetings talking about planning for next year and what we've got to do individually and as a team as well," Williams said.
"We go back on November 7 but a lot of the boys do a lot of extra work before we go back.
"You more or less have to train to get back into the pre-season so you can't let yourself go too much over the off season."
Williams does admit though that the two month break is something that he relishes at the end of each season to allow his body time to recover from the rigours of playing in the NRL.
"It's not just the physical aspect of it," he explained.
"It's pretty much mentally draining as well so it's good to get a break and get away and let our hair down for a few weeks.
"Before we know it we'll be back into it again."
Sutton doesn't get as long a break as the rest of his teammates as his strong end of season form has seen him selected in the Prime Minister's XIII to play against Papua New Guinea's Kumuls.
"I got a call a couple weeks ago from a bloke in the papers saying that I was picked in the team and I didn't really know what was going on about the side," he admitted.
"I told him I couldn't play in it as I had a Gold Coast trip.
"Then Shane Richardson (Souths CEO) rang me back saying that it was a big thing and he told me a bit about it.
"I'm pretty happy and all excited now to go to PNG."