New faces Damien Cook, Paul Carter and Cody Walker have given South Sydney coach Michael Maguire food for thought after their 18-14 victory over St George Illawarra in the Charity Shield.
In an underwhelming game marred by handling errors and typical of the NRL pre-season, the trio were amongst the best onfield in front of 13,421 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Walker looked dangerous in attack and proved he was ready to put pressure on starting halves Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary – the latter an 11th hour withdrawal from the clash.
Cook signalled his intention to claim the starting hooking spot while back-rower Carter was at his dogged best.
For the Dragons, Kurt Mann made a strong impression after being given the chance to make his case to take over the fullback role and was in position to score when Jason Nightingale produced an aerobatic knock-back from over the deadball line in the first half.
While Mann also came up with a couple of handling errors he otherwise had a solid outing, making a try-saving tackle on Cook in the first half, and keeping himself busy in attack.
Cook went within inches of scoring after darting out of dummy half with one of his first touches and was generally menacing with the ball in hand.
Carter made a strong case for a berth in the back-row, coming up with a number of punishing shots in attack and defence.
The Dragons took the lead for the first time after the break when Siliva Havili darted over from dummy half to make it 10-6 but the Rabbitohs soon snatched back the ascendancy when Kirisome Auva’a went over in the corner.
They went further in front when Ed Murphy scored on the back of a Walker break to give the Rabbitohs an eight-point lead.
Halfback Walker was solid, running the side and suggesting he was ready to step up to first grade.
The Dragons got back within four points when Euan Aitken got his second late in the match but could not come up with an equaliser despite pressing the Souths line at the death.