Michael Crocker is desperate to return to the Rabbitohs starting line-up. Picture: Mark Evans Source: The Daily Telegraph
HIS top-of-the-table South Sydney side welcome back three Queensland stars, but it’s two injured veterans who embody what coach Michael Maguire wants from his NRL outfit.
Centre Matt King, 32, is yet to play at all this season as he recovers from a broken arm which threatened to prematurely end his career.
And 32-year-old skipper Michael Crocker hasn’t featured since round three, with a return from a debilitating knee injury no clearer just yet.
The pair boast a combined total of 315 NRL games and hold senior positions with the Rabbitohs, providing the perfect tonic for Maguire to keep his squad motivated.
King is expected to return within a month, and was at Redfern Oval on Friday doing extra kicking drills before training.
“It’s been an unfortunate incident where it’s taken a lot longer than we’ve expected,” Maguire said of King on Friday.
“But he’s one of our players that’s working extremely hard on everything to make sure he’s ready to go when he gets his opportunity.
“It’s all about our senior players doing the same thing.
“Michael Crocker, unfortunately, with his knee is in a similar position.
“It’s great for myself as a coach to have those players in the background … they want to get their opportunity again.”
Maguire said there was nothing sinister about Crocker’s exclusion from first grade – it was simply a man whose body was beginning to quit on him.
“It’s a tough one, that one. He’s coming back and he has good days and bad days,” Maguire said.
“But he’s got a knee that he’s been playing on for 13 years at the top level.
“Unfortunately that’s probably taken a bit of a toll. He’s doing everything possible to get himself back.”
The Rabbitohs were dealt a blow this week with centre Beau Champion ruled out for up to six weeks with an ankle injury.
Maguire reflected positively on the injury – noting it had given Bryson Goodwin a chance to shine in the centres, while rookie Dylan Walker was also impressing.
“We’ve got some good options,” he said.
“Beauy is working extremely hard to get his opportunities back again.
“It’s pretty competitive. If they fall out they’ve got to work hard to make sure they get back in the team.”
Herald Sun – 14 June 2013