Cook tipped to bounce back as Rabbitohs, Eels swing axe (2024)

Rabbitohs team-mates have backed Damien Cook to bounce back from his shock axing after coach Jason Demetriou opted for an injection of youth amid five changes for Saturday's match against the Sharks.

With Latrell Mitchell suspended, diminutive fullback Jye Gray will make his NRL debut, while rookie speedster Tyrone Munro has been selected on the wing and Greek World Cup hooker Peter Mamouzelos replaces Cook.

Key off-season recruit Sean Keppie joins Cook, winger Izaak Thompson and rookie forward Tallis Duncan as the players dropped from the side that capitulated 34-4 to the Warriors last weekend.

Eels coach Brad Arthur has also swung the selection axe after last Sunday’s 41-8 loss to the Raiders, with Fijian superstar Maika Sivo and young gun Blaize Talagi dropped for Saturday’s clash with the Cowboys.

Daejarn Asi will partner Dylan Brown in the halves, with Morgan Harper to come into the centres and Bailey Simonsson shifting to the wing, while backrower Bryce Cartwright returns from a rib injury.

Cook tipped to bounce back as Rabbitohs, Eels swing axe (1)

Mamouzelos, who played 17 minutes off the bench against the Warriors, has long been considered a player of the future for the Rabbitohs after enjoying success as he graduated through the club’s SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup teams.

Tongan hooker Saliva Havili, who returns to the interchange along with forwards Davvy Moale and Shaquai Mitchell, said Cook would support Mamouzelos while fighting to regain his No.9 jersey.

“Cookie, like the true professional he is, will take it on the chin and do whatever it is that he needs to do,” Havili said of the NSW Origin hooker.

“We’re pretty excited for Pete. He's a confident young kid in his craft as a hooker and I like the way he plays the game from nine. He plays what he sees.

“He’s a different type of hooker compared to Cookie, speed wise, but he's still got speed. He’s pretty crafty, too.

Rabbitohs v Tigers – State Championship, 2023

“He's won Flegg, he’s won U20s and NSW Cup, so he’s made the right moves heading into the direction of an NRL player. It’s an exciting opportunity for him now.”

After overseeing just one victory this season and five wins in his last 20 matches in charge of Souths, Demetriou’s future has become the subject of intense speculation ahead of the club’s Round 7 bye.

However, players predict the inclusion of speedsters Gray and Munro, along with Mamouzelos, will add energy to the side to host the Sharks at Accor Stadium on Saturday night.

“They're exciting, they’ve got the young fresh legs,” former Kangaroos centre Jack Wighton said.

Munro sure can score

"It's just flair, we’ve got to keep a lid on it and still stay composed, but we know we're going have that flair and that young energy out there.

“Ty’s been training the house down and I'm excited to sit inside him. We’ve put Jye through his paces all pre-season and he keeps bouncing back. He’s quick, he's an energy ball and an all-round good kid so we’re very excited.”

Rabbitohs insiders say that Munro is faster over 100 metres, but Gray is the quickest player at the club over 20 metres.

I promise you this isn’t a Jye Gray highlights package.. he just so happens to have one of the games of his young career.
From the words of the great @RL_Guru this kid, oh boy he could be anything 👀 pic.twitter.com/r8XgXKWkJF

— James Robertson (@bobsonbrand) March 24, 2024

Gray, who is the smallest player in the NRL, will continue to work with Mitchell, who is serving a three-match ban for an elbow on Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson.

“He's doing his part now, he’s put himself in this predicament so he’s doing the next best thing to get [Gray] ready,” Wighton said of Mitchell.

“He is a reason I came here. He is a big part of the team, and we'll miss him but we're really excited about a young kid we’ve had in the system for the last couple of years here at the club.

“As a senior player, one of the biggest honours you get is to see a young kid fulfil their dreams, so we're really excited about that, and that's the way we're looking at it.”

Latrell Mitchell charged with dangerous contact

Havili said Mitchell, who underwent fitness training with other unavailable Rabbitohs players, said the representative star had addressed his actions with the team.

“What’s happened has happened and all we can do is look forward. He is doing his tips to Jye and what he wants to do,” Havili said.

“He is not going to be out there for the next three weeks so he is helping where he can, so that’s a good thing about him.

“He's been training hard, as usual, he's had the best pre-season he's had in a few years.

“At the end of the day we've got to support him and we will always have his back, no matter what, as we would for any other player. He's a vital part of our team, and also big in our game, so we have his back.”

Cook tipped to bounce back as Rabbitohs, Eels swing axe (2024)

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