2018 PREVIEW 🔍 Perennial underachievers? Our fifteenth preview is here. Andrew Ferguson assesses whe...
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South Sydney are winless, wooden spoon favourites and are coming off the week after dumping four players and stripping David Kidwell of the co-captaincy for breaking a booze ban.
North Queensland, their NRL opponents at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, are wary.
"At the moment they have got nothing to lose," said Cowboys forward Justin Smith, himself a former Rabbitoh.
"They always say losing is one step closer to a win and hopefully we are not that team.
"(Souths centre) Nigel Vagana has just came back from being off for six weeks and Nathan Merritt, when he is on his game, is on fire.
"Issac Luke will be jumping out of his skin too this week after he was just named in the (New Zealand) Test side.
"Roy Asotasi last year he was one of the form props of the competition ... so he will be out for a big game and to lead those boys forward."
The Cowboys will also be expecting a big game from Kidwell.
The Souths star had instigated the alcohol ban after last week's loss to Brisbane - where players were required to register zero on breath tests the following morning - yet failed the test himself along with Ben Rogers, Eddie Paea, Jaiman Lowe, and Fetuli Talanoa.
Kidwell was saved from axe while the other four were dumped to NSW Cup, with Rabbitohs coach Jason Taylor denying the club was playing favourites by insisting the loss of Kidwell's captaincy was a bigger punishment.
Rogers this week lashed out at his dumping, with former Souths great John Sattler also giving the players a massive spray for showing a lack of pride in the Bunnies jumper.
"The forwards, they've got now are not doing the job and are the weakest pack I have ever seen in the red-and-green jersey," Sattler told Rugby League Week.
"Right now they need to have a real hard grind, even if it means dropping their entire pack and putting a second-grade pack in.
"I just think it is time to shape up or ship out.
"I don't think the 'to-die-for' attitude is any longer in Souths.
"South Sydney doesn't mean as much to them as it did to us. It was our life."
Smith, who played at Souths in 2003-04 when the club won back-to-back wooden spoons, said the Bunnies looked like a club divided this season after making giant strides in 2007.
"It looks like they're not playing with much confidence," Smith said of his former club.
"Last year they had a lot of camaraderie about them, this year they all seem to be segregated at the moment."
The axings mean Taylor has been forced to patch together a team for Sunday's game with forward Dean Widders promoted from NSW Cup to starting five-eighth alongside fellow makeshift half Luke.
The Cowboys too have been forced into some late changes with fullback Matt Bowen ruled out a knee injury.
Ashley Graham will switch from centre to fullback with Ty Williams coming into the starting side.