Rabbitohs to persist with new halves pairing
South Sydney coach Michael Maguire says he is certain to continue to use Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary as his first choice halves combination, despite a lacklustre team performance in their first full game together.
Keary made his NRL debut in Round 12 last year and played almost a dozen games off the bench, but had been earmarked as a starting five-eighth alongside halfback Reynolds for the 2014 season, with captain John Sutton to be moved to lock.
But the planned combination was derailed when Keary tore a pectoral muscle in the pre-season Dick Smith Auckland Nines tournament and required surgery. Maguire initially persisted with the decision to move Sutton up into the pack, using young centre Dylan Walker as a five-eighth alongside Reynolds with limited success.
He eventually moved Walker back to his preferred role in the centres with Sutton going back to the halves, which coincided with a return to the winners' circle for the side after some early season struggles.
Keary had played two games back for the North Sydney Bears – South Sydney's NSW Cup side – before the Round 17 match against the Titans, where he was a late inclusion among a raft of late changes, with Sutton again moved to lock.
The side went down 14-10 against the unfancied and understrength Titans, producing 17 errors and struggling for cohesion.
However Keary was one of the side's better performers, launching the bomb that led to the opening try which he himself scored after supporting the play. Sutton also played well at lock, running strongly for 94 metres and making 27 tackles.
"Luke [Keary] at times showed some really good touches there and John [Sutton] in the back row – if we hang onto the ball it allows those two to play an easier game," Maguire said.
"We didn't get back-to-back sets, we didn't build pressure so there's areas of our game we definitely have to have a look at."
But he said the side was sure to persist with Keary and Reynolds in the halves for the time being.
Maguire also dismissed injury concerns over George Burgess, who left the field early in the second half having twinged the ankle injury that kept him out of the side's Round 16 loss to the Cowboys, insisting he would be fine to return after the bye.
The fourth-placed Rabbitohs have Round 18 off with the bye before travelling to Parramatta to meet the Eels in Round 19.