Gutherson lights up at fullback for Eels
Generally when teams lose their fullback to injury in the first half, they're up against it just staying in the contest, but for the second time in two games this weekend a team has shrugged off a major injury loss to claim a win.
On Thursday it was Jordan Rankin replacing James Tedesco and on Friday, former Junior Kangaroos custodian Clint Gutherson didn't just fill in for senior teammate Michael Gordon – he starred.
Gutherson is certainly no stranger to the No.1 jersey – it's his preferred position, as he reiterated to NRL.com after the game – but to swap in there mid-game and dominate so completely is a great sign for the asset the Eels have on their hands.
Among the former Sea Eagles' highlights was a bomb defusal in front of his own posts in the 45th minute. With Josh Reynolds grabbing him at the line and a pack of chasers bearing down, Gutherson was 100 to 1 not to be bundled back in goal. Instead he shrugged off Reynolds, did a mini lap around the goal posts and emerged in the field of play.
Twenty minutes later a stunning kick return saw him beat seemingly half the Dogs side when he had no right to, turning a good kick and problematic field position into a huge momentum swing for his side.
His match highlight arguably came right before half time and Gordon's absence when some serious footwork down the right edge wrong-footed Will Hopoate to earn his side a vital try.
After the game, Gutherson told NRL.com he had trained in the position and just needed to take his chances as they presented themselves.
"I got an opportunity with 'Flash' [Gordon] going down at half time so when I get the opportunity I've got to take it with both hands and do what I can. I'm still learning the game. Hopefully in the next couple of years I can get a fullback role somewhere," he said.
However, Gutherson was also revealed as the back-up goal kicker behind Gordon and that's an area that will require more work as two attempts from out wide sailed well clear of the posts.
"I've been practising a fair bit with 'Burty' [Luke Burt]. I don't know, I wasn't hitting them well tonight but I'll get back on the training paddock. It's pretty costly in the games these days but I'll get back out there and practice some more," Gutherson conceded.
His efforts also drew measured praise from his coach Brad Arthur after the game.
"I thought he was pretty good actually," Arthur said of Gutherson.
"He created some opportunities through the middle of the field and got us on the front foot out of red zone there a couple of times and we played off the back of that and had them on the backpedal."
A player's NRL Fantasy output isn't always a direct proxy for on-field value but on this occasion, Gutherson's increased involvement helped him to easily his best ever score of 85, with the stats showing a whopping 11 tackle breaks to go with his try, two line breaks and 216 metres, with one try saved and five kicks defused.