Sutton vows to bring Walker to life
Having played just six games in the Rabbitohs' No.6 jersey in the past two years John Sutton had assumed his days in the halves were over. But the player with more games for the club than any other insists it his responsibility now to create the space for fullback Cody Walker to reignite South Sydney's attack, and their season.
The Rabbitohs' 24-18 loss to the Broncos on Friday night was their sixth in their past seven games and puts them closer to the bottom of the Telstra Premiership table than the top eight past the halfway point of the season.
After moving Alex Johnston to fullback to cover for the loss of Greg Inglis after just one week, South Sydney coach Michael Maguire shifted Walker to the custodian's role in Round 10 with immediate success, registering a convincing 28-8 win over the Wests Tigers.
But in the three games since Walker has failed to register a single line break or try assist and Sutton admits he must get better at creating the time and space for Walker to employ his skills to their greatest effect.
Maguire confirmed post-match that he would continue with the halves combination of Sutton and Adam Reynolds through the back-end of the season which means Sutton's combination with Walker on his preferred left side must improve quickly.
"For me I'm just trying to square up the line, play squarer and get Cody in positions where he can do his thing," Sutton told NRL.com.
"He's most damaging when he's running the ball and the more I can feed him that's what I think is best for the team.
"Now that he's fullback he can play on both sides and swing around. He's probably been one of our best, we've just got to make sure that we get in positions where he can get the ball."
The combination of Sutton and Reynolds took Souths to preliminary finals appearances in 2012 and 2013 and most of the way through their 2014 premiership year, and while Sutton says he spent the off-season building more of a "back-rower's body" Maguire is comfortable with that pairing for the remainder of 2017.
With that being the case, he said it was important that the coaching staff also identify the best ways to bring Walker into the game and how to counter the ways opposition teams defend against him.
"People obviously look to see how they can shut him down and I thought the Broncos were pretty handy out on the edges when the ball went out the back," Maguire said.
"We obviously looked to play back through the middle and once we did that Cody came to life again through the middle.
"It's just making sure that you look at your game-plans and you come up with the right plays around those players."
The ears of the South Sydney players were ringing for two weeks in the wake of the post-match spray they received from their coach after their loss to the Eels in Round 12 and while their performance against Brisbane was far better than what they showed against Parramatta, Sutton knows the season is in danger of slipping away.
"The Parra performance was pretty disappointing but we've been training hard and working on things," said Sutton, who played his 272nd game for the club on Friday night.
"There are just moments in games where we're letting ourselves down. Brisbane tonight capitalised on them. I had a bad error coming out of our own end and they scored a try which I was filthy on myself about. Moments in games, we're just not getting it done.
"We just don't want to let each other down. It's halfway through the season so we need to start putting some W's on the board or the season's gone."