Souths hope to turn season around in Wighton’s 250th

Jacob Shteyman |

South Sydney will look to milestone man Jack Wighton to weave magic against the Cowboys.
South Sydney will look to milestone man Jack Wighton to weave magic against the Cowboys.

South Sydney claim to be unfussed by the ongoing Wayne Bennett transfer saga as they look to milestone man Jack Wighton to cast some Magic Round sorcery against North Queensland.

The rudderless Rabbitohs are stranded in bottom place in the NRL after one victory from nine games – their worst start to a season since 2008.

But Saturday’s Magic Round clash against the Cowboys presents a golden chance for the Bunnies to turn their season around.

The freefalling North Queenslanders are also winless in five after triumphing in four of their first five matches.

With both sides’ seasons hanging by a thread, South Sydney are shutting out any potential distractions.

Insouciant interim coach Ben Hornby said his focus was strictly on winning games, even though it would be great if his “good friend” Bennett returned to the club.

Ben Hornby.
Ben Hornby says his main focus is turning around South Sydney’s disappointing season. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

The Dolphins coach is set for talks with Rabbitohs leadership for the role left vacant since the sacking of former head coach Jason Demetriou in April.

“I don’t think anyone in the group’s really talked about it, to be honest,” Hornby said. 

“Until Wayne says he’s coming we’re just focusing on what we can do. And I’m sure the Dolphins would rather focus on what they’re doing.”

Souths looked promising in their 28-14 loss to St George Illawarra last time out, but again were guilty of handing the advantage to the opposition with unforced errors.

Hornby singled out their kick defence as an area of weakness after the returning Latrell Mitchell failed to clean up a Tyrell Sloan grubber kick.

“We’ve been building, still not putting the 80 minutes together, but last week we were right in it until the 60th minute and then didn’t go on with it,” he said. 

“So it’s going to be another one to work on for us this week.”

Hornby said he hoped Jack Wighton’s 250th career game would spark some extra energy from the squad.

“He inspires players every day and that’s what we love about him,” he said.

“He’s got a great work ethic and also he has a lot of fun off the field. So he’s been great for us this year and I’m sure he’ll put in a great performance.”

Try-scoring wizard Alex Johnston returns to the side after limping off in round four with a hamstring injury.

Try-scoring wizard Alex Johnston.
Try-scoring wizard Alex Johnston returns for South Sydney after recovering from a hamstring injury. (HANDOUT/NRL PHOTOS)

Two more tries would draw the winger level with Billy Slater as the premiership’s second greatest try-scorer of all time on 190.

Hornby said Johnston’s return would also add some much-needed steel to the Rabbitohs’ left-edge defence.

“It’s huge. Obviously, the try-scoring is nice, but AJ is a great defender as well,” he said.

The injury-ravaged Rabbitohs will also welcome Jacob Gagai and Taane Milne back into the fold.

Murray Taulagi and Jordan McLean return for the Cowboys after hamstring injuries.