Keary, Reynolds get half chance
Utility Luke Keary may be jumping into the driver's seat of the Rabbitohs' premiership campaign for the moment, but he doesn't see this Sunday's clash with Newcastle as an audition for the role full-time.
With John Sutton ruled out for up to six weeks with a knee injury sustained in the Bunnies' 34-18 dismantling of the Raiders on Monday night, Keary and halfback Adam Reynolds will now get the chance to reprise the halves combination that was the talk of the Rabbitohs' pre-season before being scuppered by Keary's four-month absence due to a pectoral injury.
The pair struggled for cohesion in their first outing as a playmaking partnership against the Titans a month ago, but looked far more assured in guiding the red and green to victory against Canberra after Sutton's went down just eight minutes into the game.
Just three games back from the pec injury that left him in tears at the Auckland Nines and fearing his season was over, Keary dismissed the suggestion that the coming weeks shape as a dress rehearsal for a permanent start in the five-eighth position.
"I wouldn't say dress rehearsal," said Keary, who doesn't expect the Rabbitohs game plan to change despite the absence of their skipper in the middle of the ruck.
"We're travelling alright there at 6 with Sutto and he's done the job for a long time now. I'll fill that void now while he's gone and we'll see how we're travelling when he gets back.
"We did a lot in pre-season like this, obviously we had Sutto in the middle, so it will be a bit different without him there but we'll work hard this week and see how we go on Sunday."
Captain Sutton's absence is one that's rarely been felt at Redfern over the past five years. The 29-year-old has missed just six games since 2010 for the Rabbitohs, of which his teammates have won only one without him. Stepping into his shoes as one of the hottest young prospects in the game, Keary says he is embarrassed by the hype that has built around him since debuting midway through 2013.
"I don't really read into it much," Keary says. "I've done basically nothing in the game so far. I've only played a handful of first grade games; I've only started two or three games, so I don’t really read into it. I haven't achieved anything at the moment.
"It's a little bit embarrassing but I don't hear it too much, I just try to focus on footy."
Teammate Sam Burgess, who has occupied the locker next to Keary's for the past two years at the Rabbitohs' Redfern training base, says the 22-year-old has the temperament to cope with any added pressure that comes with his new role in the side.
"The pressure won’t get to him," Burgess says. "For a young kid who hasn’t played a lot of first grade, his name is probably in the paper quite a bit.
"He has been spoken about more than any other rookie. It never fazes him, he’ll be fine."
On his own injury issues, a shoulder that forced him from the field during the second half of Monday night's game, Burgess rates himself a 50-50 chance of playing against the Knights.
"It’s improved out of sight the last few days," Burgess says. "I’ve been working pretty hard with the medical staff on recovery, but I've been doing no rehab.
"There's no point moving it, just plenty of ice and compression treatment with the physios... I’m trying to do as little as I can to let it heal as much as I can."