OPINION

Confidence levels must be high at South Sydney

ON FIRE: Laurie Daley says he's not surprised that Cody Walker is being touted as a Dally M Medal favourite. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

ON FIRE: Laurie Daley says he's not surprised that Cody Walker is being touted as a Dally M Medal favourite. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Cody Walker is in rare touch, and along with cohorts like Latrell Mitchell, Adam Reynolds, Damien Cook and Cameron Murray, has Wayne Bennett's South Sydney Rabbitohs absolutely humming right now.

Confidence levels at the Bunnies must be through the roof after 10 straight wins and, with the brand of footy they are playing, that's blowing rival teams away.

Walker's playmaking skills, his passing game, his attacking kicking game and his decision-making have been off the charts during the side's unbeaten streak.

It seems the more rival defences target him, the more he carves them up.

I'm not surprised he is now being touted as one of the Dally M Medal favourites.

So bamboozling has been his wizardry with the footy in his hands, it's almost like he now has defenders trembling with fear and back-peddling, not having a clue what he will do next. Will he pass short, will he pass long, will he kick in behind?

If the opposition stays out, he puts runners like Murray through holes with short passes Cliffy Lyons-style or if they jam in trying to shut him or his options down, he goes long to unmarked wingers in open space or Latrell out the back.

Defending the threat has proven far easier said than done, even when you know it's coming.

Look at Cody's stats - 40 line break assists in 20 games and 31 try assists, 23 of those coming in the past 10 games. That's an extraordinary strike-rate.

I've been a little bit sceptical of Souths and whether they were a genuine premiership threat earlier in the season when all the talk was about the Melbourne Storm and Penrith.

I thought defensively, Souths had some real issues with clocking off and leaking easy points in games and I also thought they needed another attacking avenue, not just their lethal left edge.

Since then, they have addressed both areas.

They have definitely tightened their defence and are also going right a lot more often in attack, with Reynolds and Walker playing down both edges.

But now comes the real test of their credentials. Tonight we will get a proper gauge, when they take on the Panthers, of just how big a contender this South Sydney side is.

The last time these sides met back in May, the Panthers handed Souths a 56-12 hiding. That result came two weeks after the Storm humiliated them 50-0. But since the Penrith rout, the Bunnies haven't been beaten.

The Panthers won't be at full strength but Nathan Cleary, another Dally M Medal contender, will play his second game back from injury. Tevita Pangai Junior makes his debut for Penrith off the bench and will be a big inclusion.

Penrith has one of the best defences in the competition, so will Walker, Mitchell and Reynolds be given the latitude to work the sort of attacking magic we have seen from them over the past few months?

Likewise, will the Souths defence handle the relentless, up-tempo pressure Penrith applies when they have the football?

The game will be a precursor to what we can expect from the big games in September. It will be a ripper that will answer plenty of questions about both sides and to my mind, the outcome could go either way.

OTHER GAMES

RAIDERS v SEA EAGLES

Pretty simple this one - if Tom Trbojevic plays, Manly wins well but if he doesn't, the Raiders will give themselves some hope. Turbo has been named but has that cheekbone injury, so it won't surprise if Dessie is playing ducks and drakes. The Eagles' halves, Dally Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, are back to premiership-winning form though and they are playing for a top four spot. My tip: Eagles

TIGERS v SHARKS

I think the Sharks got themselves up big time for the Knights last weekend only to go down narrowly in a game they could easily have won, so I can see them being a bit flat in this one. It's why I'm leaning slightly towards the Tigers to keep their finals hopes alive. My tip: Tigers

BULLDOGS v KNIGHTS

The Knights weren't flash last weekend but found a way to win a tight one and have too much to play for to lose against a Dogs side that has no real attack and just concedes too many points. I'm expecting Kalyn Ponga to cut loose in this one. My tip: Knights

EELS v COWBOYS

It's pretty simple for the Eels - if they don't win this game, they will be cannon-fodder in the finals series. They are under enormous pressure. They have zero confidence and are playing poorly with and without the footy as a result. Sometimes though, all it takes to turn things around is a strong win and surely, they get that here. My tip: Eels

DRAGONS v ROOSTERS

The Roosters and their coach Trent Robinson have done a remarkable job this season, given the adversity they have gone through to be where they are and I expect them to be too spirited and too committed for the Dragons in this one. James Tedesco has been magnificent and will lift his side to victory. My tip: Roosters

BRONCOS v WARRIORS

This one will be tight and could go either way but I think Nathan Brown's Warriors can make it four wins in a row in Brisbane. Given the setbacks the Warriors have had all season, it's been a great effort from them to be hanging in there and it's their character that will get them across the line here. The Broncos have shown some good signs in recent weeks but their halves have been disrupted again with Tyson Gamble out. My tip: Warriors