South Sydney’ hopes of back-to-back premierships have taken a dive after superstar Greg Inglis underwent knee surgery.
Inglis will miss Thursday’s blockbuster clash with Brisbane and may not be back before the finals after going under the knife on his troublesome knee.
After hobbling off in their costly 32-18 loss to Canterbury, initial scans cleared the Queensland and Australian back of major damage but a follow-up found loose cartilage floating in his knee.
While coach Michael Maguire has an able replacement in Alex Johnston, the skipper’s loss will be deeply felt with September having arrived early at Redfern.
Following their rampaging win over North Queensland, the Rabbitohs still looked to be in with a shot of becoming the first side since Brisbane of 1992-93 to win back-to-back titles.
But their humbling at the hands of the Bulldogs has them fighting Melbourne and Cronulla for the final top four spot.
They face No.2 ranked Brisbane this week before rounding out their season against ladder leaders the Sydney Roosters with both shaping as must-win affairs if they hope to finish in the top four.
Souths five-eighth Luke Keary said Inglis’ loss was a big blow for the cardinal and myrtle.
“He’s a big part of this side and he’s our captain,” Keary said.
“He’s led us around all year and he’s played really good footy all year so he’s obviously important.”
Johnston is expected to move to fullback, having filled in there during Inglis’ absence earlier this season.
Keary and hooker Issac Luke will return from suspension against the Broncos.
The Rabbitohs have failed to find consistency in the back half of the year and Keary admitted it represented a problem.
After blowing North Queensland off the park in Townsville a fortnight ago, Souths were out-muscled by the Bulldogs on Friday.
“That’s the million dollar question,” Keary said of his side’s up-and-down form.
“We probably asked ourselves that over the last couple of months and we haven’t come up with the right answer yet.
“We’ll do it again this week and we’ll see if we can turn it around.”