Inglis to return in Shield as captain: Seibold
South Sydney's new mentor Anthony Seibold enjoyed his first training day on Wednesday by announcing Greg Inglis would return to fulltime training next Monday and remain as club captain, an offer had been made to Angus Crichton, but as coach he wasn't convinced he needed two hookers for each NRL game.
Apart from naming the February 24 Charity Shield match as Inglis' return to football, Seibold threw a question mark over who would be the preferred No.9 from Damien Cook and Robbie Farah, as both shared the position under former coach Michael Maguire.
Seibold told NRL.com he had only settled on three of his spine: Inglis at fullback, Adam Reynolds as halfback and Cody Walker at five-eighth.
"We see those three guys playing there together as our best spine. We're shaping our training around those three guys there," Seibold said.
"Sure there might be times that we shuffle around positions with rep games, injuries, and the like. But we see those three guys as our starting spine and will do a lot of preparation around that."
As for rotating No.9s, Seibold confessed to not being a fan of the arrangement.
"In an ideal world you want a hooker who plays 80 minutes," said the 43-year-old, who took over in September after the Rabbitohs parted ways with Maguire.
"There's a couple of things around that – the connection with the rest of the spine, there's the cohesion with the forward pack. But we've got two really talented hookers.
"Do we find another way to play them? I'm not sure. I need to think about that.
"We are really blessed that we've got Damien Cook – a young player on the rise, played Country Origin and very dangerous out of dummy half – and we've got Robbie whose game awareness is outstanding, very good defensively, but obviously at the back end of his career.
"So we've got two really good choices there."
Cook, Reynolds, Walker and Inglis will start back next week. Farah is on World Cup duty with Lebanon.
Inglis and Seibold have set the February 24 Charity Shield match against St George Illawarra as the Test and Origin star's return to football. His 2017 season lasted barely an hour before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in round one last March.
"November is rehab running month for him. December will see him join the conditioning drills and do some other light skills," Seibold said.
"January he'll come back after the Christmas break and, all going well, he'll be in the main group and we'll start merging him with more and more contact.
"Talking to Greg his aim is to play half-a-game in the Charity Shield match so that's our target. Obviously with any target you can get some hurdles along the way, but that's our target. And everything in the rehab progress so far suggests that's realistic."
In May, Inglis opted to spend some time in a private rehabilitation centre to help deal with mental health issues over his long-term absence from rugby league.
"Greg is in a really good space at the moment and is doing well with his routine," Seibold said. "He has a smile on face, has had a really good break, he's done with the part-time stuff now and will kick-off full-time on Monday (November 6).
"He's really excited and looking forward to re-joining the main group."
Seibold said there were no second thoughts about handing him the pressure of the NRL captaincy again.
"Greg's our captain. He wants to be our captain and he's our leader as far as I'm concerned. I'm really lucky to have Sam (Burgess) and John (Sutton) as well as those three guys are our three stand-out leaders," he said. "They've all captained this team in the past – they've pretty much done everything in the game."
Another priority for Souths is securing exciting second-rower Crichton at Redfern Oval for several more years.
"We want Angus here long term," Seibold said. "We've made him an offer to extend his time here at the Rabbitohs. We feel both parties are handling things very professionally and we're waiting to hear Angus' response.
"November 1 has ticked over now and other clubs can approach him. A player of his ability is going to attract other clubs but we've put a really good case forward."
Souths want Crichton locked up by Christmas, but his manager David Rawlings is not rushing things.
"We haven't set a time frame for a decision, but I can confirm that we are working through a process presently and Angus was looking forward to returning back at Souths training today," Rawlings said.
The first group of Souths' NRL squad returned Wednesday, including George Burgess, Robert Jennings, Cameron Murray, Braidon Burns and Crichton. They completed an hour of running drills and the dreaded 'beep' tests, pitting their speed against a machine sounding out ever-shortening intervals.