Local junior gives Souths fans reason to hope

NRL Rd 6 -  Rabbitohs v Sharks
Peter Mamouzelos has learnt a lot working with Damien Cook and has no plans on replacing the veteran hooker this year. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Peter Mamouzelos has credited veteran hooker Damien Cook for helping him get a shot in first grade, with the local junior insisting “it wasn’t weird” to replace his mentor, with the pair now splitting dummy-half duties for South Sydney.

The 23-year-old is seen as the club’s long-term No.9, and there have been calls for him to get more opportunities this season to better prepare him for the rigours of the NRL.

Mamouzelos has played five games this year – four of those off the bench – and started in Souths’ round 6 loss to the Sharks when Cook was dumped to reserve grade.

There were no hard feelings from either end, with Mamouzelos keen to work with Cook as much as possible given he grew up playing in the halves and is still learning the craft of being a dummy-half.

NRL Rd 4 -  Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
Damien Cook has won back the starting spot with Peter Mamouzelos coming off the bench for Souths. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“It wasn’t weird. Cookie has been great in my transition. The club has obviously given me a chance to come off the bench and do a job, so that’s what I’ve got to focus on,” he said.

“He’s been huge for me.

“Not only is he a great player, but he’s a great teammate as well. Even before I was playing grade – I spent most of last season in reserve grade – but after most games he’d come and talk to me about what I did well and what I need to work on.

“He’s been great for me on and off the field.”

The Rabbitohs have endured a horror start to the year with the club last on the ladder and parting ways with coach Jason Demetriou, but seeing a local lad get more game time is a rare silver lining that should get fans excited.

Mamouzelos grew up in the area, went to games with his dad and idolised try-scoring machine Nathan Merritt, and he wants to play a role in turning things around as they try to salvage something this season.

NRL Pre-Season Challenge Rd 1 - Dragons v Rabbitohs
South Sydney fans always get behind local juniors like Peter Mamouzelos. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

“It does hurt, and we just want to make the fans proud,” he said, having signed a bumper new deal earlier this year.

“We want to play for our teammates and get the result every week. We’re working hard, sticking together and we’re going to try to do that to turn our season around.

“It’s an honour to wear this jersey.

“I’ve grown up a local junior, so every time I get the opportunity to go out there, I just want to do my best and I want to represent the community, my family and this great club.

“I grew up just around the corner from here (Heffron Park) and played for the Maroubra Lions because it’s the same colours as Souths. It’s my dream to play for Souths, so I’m just living it out each day.”