Stewart is unrecognisable: Watmough
Parramatta star Anthony Watmough believes reigning premiers South Sydney are no longer the "run through you, muscle you out of the game team" anymore.
And much of that, the former Sea Eagle says, has to do with his old teammate Glenn Stewart.
"They've got some flair now. Glenn, he's added that," Watmough said ahead of the Eels' blockbuster clash with the Rabbitohs on Friday night.
"He's just another person we'll have to watch. I think he's playing really well. He's added another dimension to their team."
Many questioned how the Rabbitohs would fare without grand final hero Sam Burgess and key big man Ben Te'o this season, but the competition favourites have kicked off their premiership defence with three straight wins.
And the recruitment of Stewart has been a big reason why.
Through the opening three rounds, the 31-year-old has returned to his scheming best, striking a dangerous combination with attacking weapons Adam Reynolds and Greg Inglis.
"He was busted and he couldn't even run last year. He went out there and played with a broken foot at one stage and did more damage," Watmough recalled.
"[Now] he's going good, real good. He's controlling that team really well, he's helping the halves out, [and] those little plays he's putting on down the short side, they're tricky. So we're going to watch out for him."
In the past two games, the former NSW representative has even lasted the entire 80 minutes, impressing his long-time mate.
"Yeah, he's 98 kilos. He's about 12 kilos down on what he was. We hardly recognise him," Watmough said.
"I still see him a fair bit, and he's half the man he used to be. It's still hard to take in how much weight he's lost and how fit he's looking.
"It's going to be strange [playing against him], because me and Glenny, we stayed together at Manly. We were both going to go early in our careers but we decided to stay together and obviously we both left together."
Questioned on his own start at Parramatta, an honest Watmough described his first three games in Eels colours as "poor" and is eager to up his game after their last start defeat in New Zealand.
"I can use as many excuses as I want, but personally I just haven't been up to standard. I know I've got to do better and I've got to try and lead the kids better," he said.
"I thought I started pretty decent with my 'D' the first couple of weeks, but obviously everyone was a bit off on the weekend.
"Obviously I haven't been able to get involved nowhere near enough with the ball. It's something I have to change, I have to put my hand a bit more and try and take the lead a little bit more."
Meanwhile, halfback Chris Sandow admitted he had been second guessing himself during last Saturday's loss to the Warriors with an old ankle injury he aggravated against the Bulldogs the previous week.
He said he was now back at full strength and ready to take on his former club.
"My ankle's back to 100 per cent this week. Last weekend I was a bit guessing myself. But this week I should be sweet to go," he said.
While the club heralded the signing of incoming five-eighth Keiran Foran last week, the off-contract Sandow said he was in no rush to re-sign with the club.
"No timeframe. It's up to the club and Brad [Arthur] actually, and plus my manager. I'll leave it up to those guys. I'm just doing my own work here at Parra and playing good footy," he said.
"This is my last year, but hopefully if I keep playing well, I'll get another contract. It's not in the back of my mind. I've just got to go out each week and do what I do for the boys.
"Kieran's been around and won comps and played for his country. He's been going really well, but he's here for next year, not this year. We'll have to worry about this year."