South Sydney are without their first-choice halves pairing for Saturday night’s Charity Shield clash with St George Illawarra.
The Charity Shield was meant to be a chance for Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary to fine-tune their combination ahead of the NRL season, but neither of South Sydney’s first-choice halves will face St George Illawarra on Saturday night in Wollongong.
After the Rabbitohs were dealt a crushing blow at the Auckland Nines, losing Keary for five months with a torn pectoral muscle, Reynolds was on Friday ruled out of the Dragons clash after straining a muscle in his knee at training.
Souths say Reynolds is expected to be fit for the NRL opener against the Sydney Roosters in a fortnight’s time but it’s hardly ideal to have a completely new halves pairing leading the side around the park for the final trial before the season starts.
The Rabbitohs have named rookie Dylan Walker – who played seven games at centre last year – at five-eighth, and won’t finalise their No.7 until an hour before kick-off.
Moving captain John Sutton from lock back to the halves would appear the simplest option, but coach Michael Maguire could also choose to blood youngsters Apisai Koroisaui or Alex Johnston in the starting side.
The halves will be a focus for Souths, but the limelight will well and truly be centred on Sam Burgess – who will play his first match since confirming his move to English rugby.
Respected commentator Matthew Johns has been in touch with Burgess and told Triple M on Wednesday night that the front rower has been personally hurt by recent criticisms over his defection and was planning on putting himself on a media ban for this season.
However, Burgess indicated to Johns he was eager to go out with a bang and put the knockers in their place.
The Rabbitohs are resting an injured star, but the Dragons are throwing two players who have spent the last season in the casualty ward straight into the deep end.
Gerard Beale and Kyle Stanley, who both suffered ACL injuries in the early part of last year, will have plenty to prove as part of the Dragons’ new-look attack.
St George Illawarra struggled for points in 2013, and have a fresh halves combination in Gareth Widdop and Sam Williams.
Josh Dugan will be the biggest influence at fullback, while Beale will line up at centre, with internationals Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale on the wings.
Beale was originally signed from Brisbane to play fullback at the Red V, but he said he was fine with Dugan taking his place.
The bulked-up Kiwi representative is confident his mental scars from the knee surgery have healed.
“I feel good, I feel better,” said Beale.
“I’ve put on some muscle and gained some speed so that can only be good for me and wanting to play in the centres.
“Obviously at the time it was frustrating getting injured, coming to a new club, (I) wanted to impress players, coaches and fans, but I think it’s good we got Josh.
“He’s a good player and we needed a quality player like himself.
“I’m sure we can all play off each other.
“I’m going to play every game like it’s my last.”
Meanwhile, Marika Koroibete replaces David Nofoaluma (hamstring) in Wests Tigers trial against Cronulla on Saturday.