Rabbitohs v Cowboys: Five key points
Johnathan Thurston dusted off the running boots to give NRL fans in Cairns everything he had in this side's 20-0 demolition at Barlow Park. Meanwhile, the Rabbitohs suffered their fifth loss in a row and have subsequently lost their chance to feature in finals. They are mathematically still a chance, but need leaders to stand strong. The Cowboys gave the Cairns NRL product a shot in the arm, and could a certain Cowboy be too good to keep?
Inconsistent Rabbitohs' season likely over
They were hungrier and more engaged in defence than in previous weeks but the usual attacking potency went missing for the Bunnies, who were humbled by a North Queensland juggernaut. Granted, the Cowboys' focus would have been more on defence this week after last week's efforts against Manly, but South Sydney's defensive hunger did not translate to the yardage battle on the other side of the ball. By full-time the Cowboys registered 59 per cent of possession, but there were just two Souths players who ran over 100 metres – Sam Burgess (109m) and David Tyrrell (108m). Starting props Thomas Burgess and Nathan Brown had 18 combined hit-ups for just 157 metres.
Despite losing their four prior games, Souths had still put up an average of 20 points per game. Today they were shut out.
Cowboys presence boosts Barlow Park numbers
From a first-year crowd of over 16,000 for the 2013 Rabbioths v Titans clash, attendance numbers at Barlow Park had dropped incrementally since. The Rabbitohs v Knights game in 2014 drew approximately 11,500, while last year's Bunnies clash with Canberra failed to get near the 9,000 mark. That changed this year with the premiers drawing a touch under 15,000. The Cairns match has become a point of contention in some circles after the drop in patronage, but if the Cowboys could tap further into their regional roots and manage a yearly fixture in the tourist town – be it home or away – Cairns will be in it for the long haul.
Bunnies leadership lacking
The Rabbitohs seem to be at their wits' end, being whacked with two penalties for dissent on Sunday. Greg Inglis's tantrum in reaction to an unfavourable call at the hour mark earned the side their second dissent penalty, and is the last thing expected from the captain of a club under serious scrutiny. From a revered, quake-in-your-boots type of force in their 2014 premiership year to being potentially eight points off the top eight in the latter stages of the season, the Bunnies have apparently lost a lot of their grunt, aura and culture.
Javid Bowen is first grade standard
With a try, 20 tackles, 17 carries and 146 run metres Javid Bowen slotted in without a hiccup on Kane Linnett's left side. With Justin O'Neill re-signing at North Queensland earlier this week, it puts a question mark over Javid Bowen's long-term place in the 17-man side. The exciting youngster is unsigned for 2017 and joins a glut of Cowboys talent in the outside backs, Moga and rising star Gideon Gela-Mosby also unable to fit into first grade when the Cowboys are at full strength. With the resources they have put into Tautau Moga's ACL rehabilitation and his current play in the Intrust Super Cup, the Cowboys are tipped to renew his contract; however, the question remains over Bowen. He is turning heads and may just be too good for the Cowboys to keep this off-season if other offers materialise.
Time for Rabbits to start experimenting in the halves?
With their season likely done and five-eighth Luke Keary headed for the Roosters next season, maybe it is time for South Sydney to see what they have in the halves department. There are a couple of interesting prospects currently without a deal for 2017, so unless they are set on buying talent to fill Keary's void, coach Michael Maguire may look at inserting the likes of John Sutton or Greg Inglis to partner Adam Reynolds. With his success back on the edges, it is unlikely that Inglis will go back to the middle of the field, but the least Maguire could do is test the waters; whomever he may choose.