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Souths facing halves injury crisis

South Sydney captain John Sutton could be forced into a return to his old five-eighth spot for Thursday's NRL season opener with the Rabbitohs facing a halves injury crisis.
Souths facing halves injury crisis
by AAP

By James MacSmith

SYDNEY, March 3 AAP - South Sydney captain John Sutton could be forced into a return to his old five-eighth spot for Thursday's NRL season opener with the Rabbitohs facing a halves injury crisis.

Souths coach Michael Maguire's off-season moves to reshuffle his line-up following successive preliminary final fadeouts is set to fall at the first hurdle after injuries to key personnel.

Adam Reynolds (knee) and Dylan Walker (ankle) are in doubt for the clash with premiers the Sydney Roosters, with Luke Keary (shoulder) already sidelined for up to five months.

Sutton has trained the entire off-season at lock but, if Reynolds or Walker, or both, don't take the field, Maguire looks to have no option but to slot his skipper into the halves.

"Dyl got injured last week at training and Reynolds was a bit dusty too last week so how they pull up will depend on where I am playing," Sutton said on Monday.

"If it was me making the decision, I would probably give them up until Thursday.

"They have been training well all pre-season and I would like to see them get out there for the game.

"It's not ideal but these things happen in rugby league - that's just the way it goes."

After successive preliminary final losses to Manly and Canterbury, Maguire saw the need to re-style his side, especially in attack, ahead of 2014.

The injury to Keary especially has threatened to unravel months of hard work but Sutton showed in the Charity Shield win over St George Illawarra he remains a quality playmaker at No.6 where he has spent the majority of his 207-game NRL career.

Sutton's move to the forwards was not just about keeping the size in a pack that lost Roy Asotasi, Jeff Lima and Michael Crocker at the end of 2013 but also about creating attacking options in the middle of the park.

"That was the plan," Sutton said.

"I have done most of the pre-season training in the 13.

"I like to think I can run the ball hard but, in saying that, there might be a bit more ball playing through the middle.

"But I am comfortable playing six if I do have to play there."

Back-rower Ben Te'o said he would like to see Sutton remain in the Rabbitohs' pack.

"'D Walks' has been training in the halves all off-season; it is part of his development," he said.

"He is a great runner, a great ball runner and it is about getting him more involved.

"'Sutts' definitely has a lot to offer in the forward pack."

Greg Inglis could emerge as a shock halves option if Reynolds and Walker are both ruled out.

The superstar fullback played as a pivot in Melbourne when Maguire was assistant coach.

Tom Burgess (foot) is another injury worry for Souths.

In contrast, the Roosters are likely to have 16 of their premiership-winning 17 on the park with just the retired Luke O'Donnell absent.

"It's a great way to start the season against the reigning premiers," Sutton said.

"They played well in the World Club Challenge so I'm expecting a big game from them."


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