“Some guys have been longer than others. Guys like Dane Gagai have been outstanding for us. But to lose your captain and coach, it’s huge. We want it to be now.”
Reynolds will head to Brisbane, Gagai to Newcastle and Su’a to St George Illawarra; Bennett is being hotly pursued by the Brisbane expansion contenders, while Marshall is yet to decide if he will play on. Cook, however, tipped the 36-year-old to go round again given he had remained fresh with limited game time this season.
Marshall did not even come off the bench when Souths were thumped 56-12 against Penrith, a loss that has since sparked a run of ten straight wins for Souths.
“I think Benji is keen to keep playing, he says his body is feeling good, he hasn’t played a full season or played big minutes, and says he is feeling good,” Cook said.
Souths legend John Sutton, who still works as a coach at the club, said there were similarities with the 2014 season, when the club ended their 43-year premiership drought.
“Everyone is putting their eggs into the one basket and going for it this year,” Sutton said. “There are similarities with 2014 ,with Sam leaving and Benny Te’o leaving. Everyone wants to do the best for themselves, but it also crosses your mind these people are leaving and you want to send them out on a great note.
“Adam has been here his whole career, Wayne has given up Origin this year because he wants to go out on a high – he’s been great for us – so it is giving them extra motivation.”
Souths have bombed out a week before the grand final in each of the past three seasons, but have Walker and Latrell Mitchell in blistering form, plus a healthy roster including Gagai, Alex Johnston and Campbell Graham who all return against the Panthers.
Next season will kick-start a new era at Redfern, with rookie NRL head coach and long-time Bennett assistant Jason Demetriou to take over, and Lachlan Ilias to be given first crack at Reynolds’ No.7 jersey.