With the blowtorch heating up on South Sydney, it’s only fitting they head to sunny Cairns to keep their NRL season alive.
The 13th-placed Rabbitohs are banking on a change of scenery to kickstart their campaign when they host defending premiers North Queensland at Barlow Park on Sunday afternoon.
“I think the temperature up there is around 24-25 degrees,” Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said.
“Looking forward to getting away with the boys. It’s always good to go into a different environment, spend a bit of time together, away from footy as well, just to be able to chat and tell a few jokes.”
But while the forecasters are predicting a lovely setting, the heat is ramping up on the 2014 premiers, who have lost their past four to fall six points out of the top eight.
It means they now have to win eight of their final nine regular season games to make the finals, including this week’s daunting assignment against the third-placed Cowboys.
As North Queensland trumpeted the re-signings of premiership-winning players Justin O’Neill and Ethan Lowe on Friday, rumours have been awash in Redfern overnight of the imminent sacking of Paul Carter.
South Sydney confirmed on Friday that they have stood down the 24-year-old firebrand for failing to turn up to a training session, casting extreme doubt over his future at the club.
A fitness cloud also hangs over halfback Adam Reynolds, who trained for the first time on Thursday and remains a game-time decision after picking up a shoulder injury on duty for NSW in Origin II.
“He’s good, (but) we actually need him to test himself (on Saturday) just to make sure,” Maguire said.
“It’s really more just a nerve through his shoulder which they need to look after but he’s heading in the right direction which is great.”
For the Cowboys, Javid Bowen or Tautau Moga are on standby for Kane Linnett (calf), and Ray Thompson is deputising for Michael Morgan (knee).
Like he did with Manly last week, North Queensland coach Paul Green is expecting the Rabbitohs to fight for their season.
“They’ll be desperate, there’ll be plenty in this game,” he said.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* A total of at least 50 points have been scored in the Rabbitohs’ past three games they’ve hosted at Barlow Park in Cairns, winning two of them.
* South Sydney have won all four of the matches they’ve led at halftime this season, but have only done so once in their past 10 games.
* John Sutton becomes the first player in Rabbitohs history to play 250 games, and Gavin Cooper plays his 150th for the Cowboys.