It’s a new era at South Sydney with a new coach, a new captain and a new halfback but the Rabbitohs showed signs of promise as the North Queensland Cowboys ran away 24-12 winners at Barlow Park.
The Cowboys may have been just hours from their home faithful but the Souths support didn’t go unnoticed as Demetriou got his new season off to a promising start.
Both sides rested their star players as their young contingents went to work, sharing equal possession in the first half.
Cowboys were on the attack early – Jake Bourke giving their NQ fans reason to cheer as he opened up the Souths defence to take a 6-nil advantage.
Dane Gagai may be lost to the Knights but his brother Jacob filled that void with some quick hands as Zane Bijorac soon equalised.
Local Jayden Hodges pushed his case for a regular NRL spot – setting up a slick four pointer out of dummy half to see the Cowboys double their lead.
South Sydney piled on the pressure but struggled to capitalise on their first half opportunities. Poor ball control led to another close call when Zac Laybutt was sent running. But the Bunnies breathed a sigh of relief, as it remained 6-12 at the break.
Demetriou watched on as his young players reeled off a frantic Cowboys attack early in the second half, before a spark reignited on the Bunnies left edge. Bijorac and Gagai found the hands of local Jack Campagnolo as the 23 year old crossed to seal Souths second try. The 2021Intrust Super Cup five-eighth of the year made no mistake kicking on his home field as he levelled scores at 12-all.
The back and forth affair continued as the Cowboys regained their lead through Raiders junior Andre Niko.
The Rabbitohs were reduced to 12 men as Tallis Duncan was sent to the bin for a late contact and the Cowboys took their chance. Laybutt crossed for a double as the hosts created a 12-point buffer.
Nine penalties to four hurt South Sydney as North Queensland did all they could to protect their lead. 24-12 was how it ended.