Upbeat Sutton shrugs off pressure
He's leading the game's most famous club, in search of its first premiership for 42 years. His initials are the same as the club legend who led them to victory the last time. Everybody's watching his team. But ask John Sutton about pressure and he says he doesn't know what you're talking about.
"There's no pressure," Sutton says with a shrug as the Rabbitohs prepare to meet Manly in a preliminary final at ANZ Stadium on Friday night. "I've enjoyed being captain. I enjoy my job every week and I'm happy to be in that position. Definitely, I'm not feeling any pressure at all."
It was the great John Sattler who captained South Sydney to each of their last four grand final wins, the most recent coming in 1971 against St George. Sutton, a career Rabbitoh who is in his 10th year of first grade at the club, is acutely aware of its rich premiership history, but he is adamant he doesn't feel any heat from that. He is relaxed, rather than edgy, about doing the job.
"I love leading the team," Sutton says. "When 'Madge' (coach Michael Maguire) gave me the reins to captain the side at the start of the season I was happy. I'm leading some great players and the boys are looking up to me and I'm very privileged to do it.
"There's no pressure. I'm just going out to do my job, week in and week out. Madge sets us simple goals that we have to achieve every week and I'm very proud and honoured to be captain of this team and captain of this club.
"I've been at the club for a long time now, so I know the history of the club. It's a great club, but there's definitely no pressure. I enjoy going out there and doing my job every week – and that's all I have to worry about."
Maguire says that, rather than being daunted by the responsibility of leading “The Pride of the League", Sutton thrives on the captaincy.
"Definitely, he just enjoys his footy," Maguire says. "He's a great footy player. He works and works and he knows that if he keeps doing that he'll give himself the best opportunity to become the player he's becoming. There's still big improvement in 'Sutto' and he knows that himself and he wants to achieve that.
"'Croc' (Michael Crocker) was captain at the start of the year, but he was out injured and John, ever since I've been here, has shown leadership qualities. I saw it in him straight away. His knowledge of the game was right up there.
"I've been lucky enough to work with a lot of good players, and his knowledge of the game is really, really sharp. The boys respond to him and enjoy playing with him. They listen to him. He's a very smart footballer. He knows the game and he carries himself well. He's made my job easier."
Sutton admits he has thought about how great it would be to lead the Rabbitohs back to premiership glory after so long, but – like a typical captain – you'll get no outrageous predictions from him.
"You do think about stuff like that, but I try to keep my two feet on the ground as much as possible and just worry about the team," he said. "There's still a long way to go and we're working on improving our performance.
"We've got another finals game coming up – that's what we've got to concentrate on."
Maguire has encouraged contact between the great Souths players of the past, including Sattler, Ron Coote and Bob McCarthy, and the current team. He says it reminds the modern-day players of how special the Rabbitohs are as a club.
"The former players are a big part of our club," Maguire said. "A lot of them come to games and player reunions and they're really proud of the current players. I think that relationship is a big part of us as a team and a club.
"Those great players have created the history of this club, and now we're trying to add to that."
Sutton says the contact with the legends means a lot to him and his teammates.
"When one of the guys is playing a milestone game, Madge likes to bring the former players into the dressing room for a presentation," he said. "It's great to have them around. To be able to talk to them before those games, it gives us a real lift."