The Cowboys showcased a cavalcade of young stars as they downed the Rabbitohs 24-12 in their pre-season trial at Barlow Park in Cairns on Saturday.
From fullback Tomas Chester and winger Laitia Moceidreke to hard-running back-rower Riley Price, the Cowboys' new breed packed too many punches for a Souths side missing most of its big guns.
The Cowboys got the scoring underway through Jake Bourke in just the fourth minute before Zane Bijorac hit back for the Rabbitohs just before quarter-time.
A clever grubber out of dummy half by Jayden Hodges then laid on a try for Jordan Lipp as the Cowboys skipped out to a 12-6 lead.
Last year's grand finalists were next to strike when Jacob Gagai went to the left side and found Bijorac who delivered a perfectly timed pass to Jack Campagnolo to score.
Campagnolo is coming off a stellar 2021 in the Intrust Super Cup with Wynnum Manly Seagulls when he was voted five-eighth of the year.
It took the Cowboys just eight minutes to regain the lead when Andre Niko crossed in the corner after some great lead-up by Tomas Chester, who spun his way through several defenders.
The Rabbitohs lost Tallis Duncan to the sin bin in the 63rd minute and he had barely made his way to the sideline before the Cowboys took advantage of the overlap with Daejarn Asi putting 19-year-old Zac Laybutt over to make it 24-12.
Match: Rabbitohs v Cowboys
Round 1 -
Venue: Barlow Park, Cairns
This weekend's 'son of a gun' theme came to the fore as Maroons legend Steve Price's son Riley did his dad proud with a tenacious display for a Cowboys side which also included Martin Bella's son Ross. At just 20, Price looks to have a big future if his 14 hit-ups for 109 metres is anything to go by while Bella boasts a stack of Intrust Super Cup experience and will look to take the next step in 2022.
- Shaq Mitchell made a good impression with the Indigenous All Stars last week and continued his rise with 10 runs for 111 metres in another strong display.
- At 193cm and 106kg, Griffin Neame is a powerful unit and he hits hard in defence as Rabbitoh Isaiah Vailalo could attest after he was on the end of a bell ringer in the second quarter and coughed up possession.
- Greek international Peter Mamouzelos showed he'll be a perfect deputy for Damien Cook, getting through 27 tackles in the first half before a head knock ended his night.
- The Bunnies look to have a good prospect in former NZ Schoolboy Josiah Karapani who ran with plenty of purpose for his 157 metres.
- He may have played just 10 games at the top level but Daejarn Asi's NRL experience shone through as he laid on a try and landed four conversions.
Neame with the bone rattler
Play of the Game
Jayden Hodges pulled a rabbit out of his hat to stun the Rabbits with a cheeky grubber which went through the legs of a defender and sat up in the in-goal for Jordan Lipp to touch down. Hodges last played NRL in 2014 with Manly but his try assist and booming 40-20 suggest he's on track to add to his career tally of three games.
Hodges threads the needle Lipp touches down
What They Said
“We’ll get Lachlan Ilias and Blake Taaffe back next week, we’ll field a very different team but this week was all about giving our young blokes some exposure to some footy and I think we did that. They learnt some valuable lessons but also showed some good touches and reasons why we’re optimistic about their future": Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.
"What I liked about that performance was the fact we just dug in, our intent and our defensive resolve for different periods of the game. We have got another game, we have still got a bit of work to do and there are still some positions up for grabs": Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
The Rabbitohs meet the Dragons in their traditional Charity Shield clash in Mudgee. First played in 1982, the Charity Shield always carries some extra meaning as these two great rivals go head-to-head. The Bunnies have won eight of the past nine clashes with a draw in 2015 the only respite for the Dragons.
The Cowboys can be expected to roll out big guns Val Holmes, Chad Townsend, Jason Taumalolo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow when they tackle the Broncos in Mackay. That should tune Todd Payten's men up nicely for a round one clash with the Bulldogs on home soil in Townsville.