After speculation over who will replace Adam Reynolds at halfback for South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2022, NRL rookie Lachlan Ilias has been given the nod ahead of their pre-season trial against North Queensland Cowboys this weekend.
With Cody Walker a lock at five-eighth, Souths have several options at halfback including Ilias, Grand Finalist Blake Taaffe or the more experienced Troy Dargan and Dean Hawkins, who have been waiting in the wings in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup over the past few seasons.
Despite Taaffe’s incredible end to the 2021 season, Souths have opted for a player with a similar skill set to Reynolds in a bid to re-create their success from last year. Ilias is just 21 years old but according to Rabbitohs assistant coach Ben Hornby, he has the perfect temperament for a NRL halfback.
“He’s got a great opportunity in front of him, he’s just a great kid,” Hornby told Rabbitohs TV in December.
“He works really hard, and you won’t find anyone fitter.
“He has got a great temperament to play in the halves as well, which I think is really important.”
If picked for the season opener against the Brisbane Broncos, Ilias will face off against his former teammate Reynolds in just his second NRL appearance, after making his debut in Round 25 last year.
Helping ease his transition into first grade is the fact he will be playing in a spine with two experienced players in Walker and current Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues hooker Damien Cook.
While Taaffe is likely to play fullback for the first two games, Latrell Mitchell will be available for selection after serving a six-match suspension and will slot straight back into the No.1 jumper, giving new coach Jason Demetriou yet another selection headache.
Taaffe’s versatility will no doubt work in his favour as he can play in the halves, fullback, centre or wing and has played alongside Ilias in Souths’ 2019 Jersey Flegg Cup Grand Final win, where he was named Player of the Match.
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Demetriou has opted for several other players with NRL experience in their first trial including Taaffe, Jaxson Paulo, Richie Kennar, Hame Sele and Siliva Havili. Joining Ilias in the halves is new recruit Jack Campagnolo, who played for Wynumm Manly Seagulls in 2021.