With Adam Reynolds facing an extended stint on the sidelines, South Sydney look set to inject Cody Walker into the halves, giving him a chance to stake a claim as the club’s long-term playmaker.
Reynolds looks likely to miss several weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in NSW’s State of Origin II loss to Queensland on Wednesday night, a hammer blow for the desperate Rabbitohs.
Souths coach Michael Maguire has several options to partner Luke Keary in the halves, including Greg Inglis, who has been named at centre after a recent stint in the No.6 jumper.
However, the coach this week expressed a desire to get his skipper early ball for him to run at the line, suggesting his more-favoured option would be to move Walker from fullback to the halves and put Alex Johnston in the No.1 jersey.
Reynolds on Thursday was scheduled to undergo a MRI and had his arm in a sling as he departed Brisbane and the early prognosis was that he had partially dislocated his shoulder.
Keary this week announced he would move next season to arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters on a two-year deal.
But, he looks set to be a vital part of Souths’ set-up for the remainder of his time at Redfern.
“He adds a lot to what we’re doing,” Maguire said of Keary.
“I’ve been able to put him back to the bench at some stages and he’s come out of dummy-half, he’s played in the halves and shown the form that he’s capable of playing.
“He’s been a big part of us for a long time and he’s looking forward to Friday.”
Reynolds’ absence is poorly timed for the Rabbitohs, who face missing the top eight for the first time in Maguire’s tenure.
Coming into Friday’s clash with Penrith, they are 13th and a loss at the foot of the mountains will put them three wins outside the eight with a tough draw – which includes matches against all top-four teams – in the run home.
For Panthers’ five-eighth Bryce Cartwright, he has a chance to play his way into a NSW jumper for Origin III.
Chris Grevsmuhl comes up against his former club for the first time since his mid-season departure after claiming Maguire had played mind games with him during his time at Redfern.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* South Sydney have won five of the past six matches against Penrith and three out of the most-recent four in Penrith
* Penrith lead the competition in offloads with 14.1 per game as well as conceding the most offloads at 11.1 per game
* Souths have conceded 30-plus points in nine of the their past 19 games. In Maguire’s first 100 games in charge, they let in 30 or more points on just nine occasions
Source: Fox Sports Stats