South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett is counting the days until the return of star playmaker Cody Walker with the Rabbitohs still searching for their second win of the NRL competition.
Souths failed to break their hoodoo in Melbourne, which now stretches to 16 games, with a 22-8 loss to the Storm in their Friday night clash at AAMI Park.
Walker has missed the two rounds since the restart after he was handed a two-match suspension and a $15,000 suspended fine for kicking a man in the chest in a street fight late last year.
His rookie replacement Troy Dargan toiled hard but was outclassed by Melbourne’s superstar five-eighth Cameron Munster, who set up two tries, in a man-of-the-match showing.
While Latrell Mitchell impressed at fullback, the Rabbitohs’ attack lacked the creative brilliance that Walker can bring, as well as centre James Roberts, who has also missed their last two games.
He will slot straight back in for next Saturday afternoon’s clash with Gold Coast, as will Roberts who missed some training when he checked himself into a rehabilitation facility in April.
“He’s a quality player, he’s one of our top players so he will come straight back in and James Roberts will be back too,” Bennett said.
Despite the loss and a error count of 17 for the match, Bennett was calm about their 1-3 start the season.
“I’ve got a fair bit of optimism that we can get where we want to go and be a lot better than we are right now,” Bennett said.
“We’ve got a couple of quality players to come back.
“I’m not looking at it and saying this is going to be a tough season.
“It’s tough not playing to your potential but at the same time there’s a lot of effort going in.
“If the effort is there I’m pretty confident we can fix that; it’s when you don’t have any effort you’ve got a real issue.”
Bennett felt he got more value out of Cameron Murray, who returned from the edge where he started the season to his favoured lock position.
“I thought it was good – he was more involved,” Bennett said.
“And he will be better than he was tonight as well, the workload there is much heavier than playing on the edge so he just needs to get back there and get into it.”