You can't celebrate John Sutton enough: Craig Wing

My old Rabbitohs teammate John Sutton is getting a testimonial match this weekend and from my point of view, you can't celebrate what he has achieved enough.

Sutto is South Sydney through and through. From his earliest days at Kensington United, to a stint at my junior club the Coogee Wombats, to making his debut at the Rabbitohs at a time when the club was not successful, to growing into a leader and a grand final-winning captain – Sutto has defied all the odds and somehow is still standing.

Everyone should be super proud of him. He's had a really long career and what he's done is very special.

He's travelled a very long road with a club that's been in the doldrums and is now sitting at the top. He's seen it all and done it all.

He didn't have the most privileged upbringing. He came into first grade and he wasn't the rookie of the year – he just slowly chipped away, became a senior player, played some rep footy, and won a grand final as captain.

I'm sure through his career he wasn't always the flavour of the month. At times they would've doubted his attitude and fitness and he's still standing and towards the back of last year was the best form I've seen in his career.

He's never been the strongest or the most athletic player but he has a very good football brain and he's just stuck with it, persevered, done his job and after all this time, here he is still standing.

And it's not just that he's still there – he's a senior player among all these superstars like Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess, whereas when he first started there were no superstars at the Bunnies. He was just a young kid coming through and now he's the leader among all these superstars.

I used to look across at Souths when I was at the Roosters and Sutto was first making his way into grade. They were a bit of hodge-podge of guys who had a bit of skill but no solid game plan but he was one of their attacking players. We'd look at Sutto as someone who could do something good but who at times could also go missing.

But over the years he grew into a player who, more often than not when a game needs to be broken open or you need a big play, he's in and around it. He's not necessarily making the break or scoring the try but he's creating it with a pass or an offload or a little kick or another game-breaking moment.

I think he's thoroughly deserved it, it's a very special achievement, to become the most-capped player in South Sydney's long and proud history.

Souths have got a very strong junior league and every kid in that junior league should be looking at him as representing what each and every one of them could achieve if they stick with it.

As he's evolved as a player he's had to learn a number of roles. He debuted as a centre, I played with him as a five-eighth and a lock and over the past few seasons he's really found a home in the second row.

He represents what footy is all about. He wasn't always the most amazing role model or the most talented but he's grown and matured throughout his career with football into the legend that he is now.

Early on you wouldn't have thought he'd still be standing now, you would've thought younger fitter guys would have come along who train harder and he'd be pushed aside like hundreds of other players who've gone before him have. But he's gone the other way and now he's playing the best footy of his whole career at the back end of his career.

I heard Wayne Bennett may have a bit of a dilemma when it comes to picking the team for the game this weekend because it is a trial, but because it is Sutto's testimonial all the players will want to play and you can't exactly put out a B-grade team.

Wayne may even say a few words, I know he's not big on words but he will have every player thinking about how lucky they are to be by his side for that game because it's pretty special and for them to be a part of it, it's something they'll remember forever and all the fans at the game will remember it as well.

 

John Sutton's testimonial match will take place this Saturday, February 23 at the Metricon High Performance Centre at Redfern Oval against Penrith.

All four grades will be in action, with Sutton having played for all four in his time at the club. Harold Matthews Cup kicks off at 12:40pm, SG Ball Cup at 2pm, Jersey Flegg at 4pm and NRL at 6pm.

Tickets are available now and start from $20 for adults and $10 for kids with a percentage of proceeds to be donated to Souths Cares and Panthers on the Prowl charities