Proud Bundjalung and Yuin man Cody Walker has put in a virtuoso performance to guide South Sydney to an impressive comeback 32-24 win to kick off the NRL's Indigenous Round at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Thursday night.
Having lost his halves partner Adam Reynolds to a shoulder injury in just the seventh minute and with his side down 16-0 after 16 minutes, Walker put the team on his shoulders and carried them to victory.
Walker played both the steady halfback role and the evasive running five-eighth role to brilliant effect, with every point scored by the Rabbitohs provided by a trio of Indigenous stars. Latrell Mitchell (Biripi) provided a try and four goals while Alex Johnston (Saibai Island) scored a hat-trick.
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett said Reynolds should be a chance of returning as soon as next week.
"[Reynolds has] got what they call a burner in the shoulder, he's pretty sore and tender at the moment," Bennett said.
"No one's quite sure where that's going to go or how long it will take. Nerves create that type of situation. There was never a point he was coming back. Nobody suggested it to me at half-time.
"He was trying to get it feeling better but it wasn't. I wasn't going to put any pressure on anybody.
"We've got nobody coming out of the game that has any problems that would prevent them being available next week."
It looked like it was going to be Matt Dufty's night as the in-form fullback torched the Bunnies early to create the 16-point advantage but Walker and Johnston asserted themselves over the final 60 minutes to wrest the game away from the Red V.
There was an extra blow for the Dragons late with Euan Aitken suffering a hamstring injury in the final minutes of the contest.
The Dragons earned their first try against the run of play as Tariq Sims crunched Reynolds as he retrieved his own grubber from a Dragons deflection and the ball came free.
It was scooped up by Corey Norman with a flying Dufty in support finishing off the 90-metre team try in just the seventh minute.
A brilliant face-ball from Dufty put Euan Aitken over untouched in the 12th minute before the same two players combined again, Dufty putting Aitken through a gap then supporting to score himself to make it 16-0 in as many minutes.
Match: Dragons v Rabbitohs
Round 12 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
A penalty to help Souths upfield opened the door for the visitors, with a jinking Walker solo try kick-starting the comeback soon after.
It could have been back-to-back tries but Alex Johnston was controversially ruled to have put his foot into touch as he set up Damien Cook in the very next set but Souths had their second soon after anyway as Johnston intercepted a shocking Dufty pass to run the length.
Johnston had yet another moment of brilliance with a line break in the 36th minute, kicking back inside for Mitchell to score and get the Bunnies back to level pegging at half-time.
Johnston had his second, handing Souths the lead for the first time, when a poor read from Zac Lomax allowed him to cross untouched in the 48th minute.
Walker double has the Bunnies back in the lead
Tyson Frizell won the race to a Ben Hunt grubber to square back up at 20-all before a trio of Souths' Indigenous stars combined to reclaim the lead for the final time.
A nice ball to Mitchell put Dane Gagai into space and from the next play against a retreating defence Walker ran a brilliant line for his second try.
Johnston iced the win and capped his own personal best game of the year with another long-range intercept try six minutes from time.
There was a consolation try to Mikaela Ravalawa from a nice Tristan Sailor grubber in the final minute but it wasn't enough to give the Souths any late scares as they pushed their way, at least temporarily, back into the top eight.