South Sydney centre Dylan Walker hopes the shock departure of Glenn Stewart at the end of the season will lead to the NRL return of club hero Sam Burgess.
The Rabbitohs granted Stewart a release from the final year of his contract on Wednesday to take up a three-year deal with Super League club Catalans Dragons.
Burgess is on the verge of completing his rugby union dream of playing in the upcoming World Cup with England and has two years remaining on his contract at Premiership Rugby side Bath.
However with Stewart joining star hooker Issac Luke in Redfern’s departure lounge, the Rabbitohs will have plenty of space in the salary cap to explore the return of their 2014 grand final hero.
Another option for South Sydney would be to sign unwanted Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah, whose playing future remains clouded after being told to look elsewhere by the club three weeks ago.
“I hope so,” Walker said on Thursday morning when asked if he thought Burgess would come back to the NRL.
“I’m not a recruitment manager, but seeing `Gift’ (Stewart) go is a bit upsetting. It’s an opportunity for someone to come.”
The Stewart announcement adds to a dramatic week at Redfern, which has included the two-game suspension of George Burgess for bottle-throwing as well as the return of skipper Greg Inglis from a knee injury.
Additionally, the defending premiers, who will also be without the suspended Luke and injured John Sutton for Sunday’s elimination final against Cronulla, dropped their final two matches of the regular season by a combined 76-10 scoreline.
Walker denied Stewart’s surprise exit was a distraction, instead claiming that it would provide further motivation for the side to rectify their premiership defence.
“It’s more of a boost for us, we want to do the right thing by him,” he said.
“I spent a lot of one-on-one time with Gift and he’s been a champion bloke to me this whole year.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for him and I hope he does really well over there.”