A dominant Rabbitohs side narrowed the overall Charity Shield ledger with a comfortable 32-14 win over the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. Robbie Farah and Damien Cook staked their claims for the No.9 jersey while Will Matthews looks set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines after dislocating his hip in the first half.
Dummy-half debate rages on
Mystery surrounding who will wear the No.9 for the Rabbitohs in Round 1 has intensified after Robbie Farah and Damien Cook both performed well in Sunday's win. Farah did his hopes of starting against the Tigers no harm following a solid 40-minute stint against the Red V, but Cook responded in kind to leave Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire with a pleasant selection headache leading into the new season. Farah scored the game's opening try from close range and controlled the contest with some penetrating kicks from dummy-half before coming off at the break. Damien Cook wound back the clock to his days as a beach sprint champion when he burst through the middle of the ruck before putting in a delicious banana kick onto the chest of Braidon Burns to score. Farah returned to the field at five-eighth for the final 13 minutes with the pair set to duke it out over the next two weeks for the hooker role.
Will Matthews injury
The Dragons have confirmed back-rower Will Matthews has dislocated his right hip in a tragic blow a fortnight out from the season proper. The 28-year-old was helped off the field on a medi-cab in the 33rd minute after he was caught in a three-man tackle near his own line. The game was stopped for roughly five minutes as medical staff tended to the injured Dragon who received a rousing reception as he was taken up the tunnel. The recovery period varies depending on the player, but hopefully we'll see Matthews back on a footy field soon.
Alex Johnston a handy No.2
Superstar fullback Greg Inglis has stated he wants the fullback position to be his in 2017, and there is no denying that's where he should play. But when GI is unavailable during the Origin period, Rabbitohs fans can rest easy knowing they have a handy replacement in Alex Johnston. The 22-year-old deputised at the back on Sunday and showed why he's touted as the club's fullback-in-waiting. Johnston blitzed the Dragons' defence through pure speed to score the second try of the afternoon while his positional play and support runs were equally impressive as the game wore on. Johnston has played eight club games at fullback for the Bunnies and is odds-on to add to that tally.
Errors still an issue for the Burgess bros
Handling errors plagued the Burgess brothers throughout 2016, and it was a case of history repeating itself on Sunday afternoon with the Englishmen producing a couple of costly mistakes. Sam made a team-high 28 mistakes in 2016 while twins George and Tom each came up with nine. George got the ball rolling in the first minute of the game with a knock-on before Tom followed suit resulting in a try to Nene Macdonald. If they can eliminate the loose carries from their game, expect the Burgesses to return to the sort of form that saw them take the competition by storm in 2014.
Josh Dugan 'passes' his first test
We all know that Dragons fullback Josh Dugan is one of the most damaging power runners in rugby league, but if there's an area of his game that needs working on, it's his passing. Dugan only registered one try assist in 2016, and in an ever-evolving role, fullbacks now have to double up as an extra playmaker. Fans of the Red V would have seen their star No.1 throw more passes than usual on Sunday in a sign that he has made a conscious effort in the off-season to become a more prominent ball-player. Dugan set up Nene Macdonald with a glorious offload midway through the first half and tried to get the ball to his wingers as much as possible in a promising sign for the Red V.