Rookie Rabbitohs driving title defence
He raised the trophy as captain last season but Rabbitohs five-eighth John Sutton has credited the enthusiasm of the team's rookies for keeping South Sydney's Telstra Premiership title defence on track in 2015.
The Rabbitohs moved to within reach of the top four with an unconvincing 22-16 win over the Titans on Saturday, their seventh of the season giving them the exact same win-loss record they boasted after 12 rounds last year.
With byes still to come in Rounds 15 and 18 South Sydney should be in a healthy position when halfback Adam Reynolds returns from injury and Sutton believes it is the influence of the younger players that is keeping the wins ticking over.
Names such as Chris Grevsmuhl, Aaron Gray, Nathan Brown and Cameron McInnes would not have been considered among the Rabbitohs' top 17 in the pre-season but all have made major contributions to the team's past two wins over the Eels and the Titans.
Grevsmuhl scored twice and Brown laid on a try for Alex Johnston against Gold Coast and as South Sydney endeavour to become the first team in almost 25 years to go back-to-back, Sutton said their energy has allowed the team to forge a new identity.
"It's a totally different team to what we had last year. We're still adjusting to a little bit of a different style of play," Sutton said.
"Last year we were all through the middle and now we've got some different weapons on the edge in Chrissy and the like.
"Towards the end of last year, guys like Sammy [Burgess] and Benny Te'o, the older fellas really led the way and we don't have those fellas any more so we've got to look to the young boys and guide them.
"In saying that they've got to bring the energy and I think that's what they're doing. We haven't found the right balance just yet but we'll just keep working hard at training.
"We've won the last couple of weeks but we're not where we want to be. It's only halfway through the season and we'll keep learning and just keep worrying about what we've got next."
Playing in just his sixth game of the season, the return of Sutton from injury has settled a South Sydney team that until a fortnight ago was unable to find a way to win without Reynolds.
Reynolds and Glenn Stewart are both due to return to the team after their bye in Round 18 but coach Michael Maguire is delighted at what his young charges are delivering in their absence.
"There's a lot of upside in our team I know that," said Maguire, whose team will round out the first half the season against the Warriors in Perth next weekend.
"Obviously we've got a few sitting out on the sideline at the moment and there's quality there but in saying that we're getting these young guys that are stepping in and they're being able to find a way to win those types of games.
"Cam McInnes, Aaron Gray, Nathan Brown, I've got a number of players that are stepping up and taking their opportunities.
"Right across the park I think each player is taking steps forward each week and that's really what you need to do at this time of year."
The mid-season arrival of Brown from Wests Tigers has added plenty of punch to a Souths forward pack that has built a reputation of simply bludgeoning opposition teams into submission through the middle of the field.
He is not afraid to shoot out of the line to put a big hit on and with Ben Lowe pulling out of the game against the Titans due to a knee injury Brown was promoted to the starting team for the first time in his young NRL career.
"He's brought a lot of energy to our team," Sutton told NRL.com.
"Last week when he flew out of the line and put on that big hit just before half-time gave us a lot of energy and tonight I thought he brought the same thing.
"He set up that great try for 'AJ' (Johnston) through the middle there so he's got some great qualities that have really given the boys a lift."