South Sydney hooker, Isaac Luke, has been named on the bench for the second consecutive week after his announcement to join the Warriors for the 2016 season.
Souths coach Michael Maguire has stated that his choice to bench the star hooker was down to his “performances not being up to scratch”, rather than a reaction to Luke’s recent decision to leave.
With players announcing their intentions to start the next year with a different club mid-season, NRL clubs have seen some predictable setbacks. However, this is yet to be proven as detrimental to any club’s push to finish within the top eight this season.
Multiple team’s finals aspirations have been affected with the release of contract negotiations to the media. Both Manly and its supporters have felt the impact of the media circus that circled around Daly Cherry-Evans and his indiscrete negotiations with both Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans. Michael Gordon’s situation at the Sharks could still negatively affect both his current team, and prospective team the Parramatta Eels.
At the start of the season the Dragons found themselves in a situation similar to the Rabbitohs when Trent Merrin announced his decision to join the Panthers for the 2016 season. Despite being dropped to the bench for the first three games, Merrin managed to impress the coaching staff and supporters with his performances. His combination of form and attitude resulted in a return to the starting line-up for the Dragons victory over Manly, the first win of the season for the Red V.
The Rabbitohs are no strangers when it comes to players announcing post season moves, having suffered the loss of Sam Burgess last year. Burgess announced his end of year move to rugby union before the 2014 NRL season began. Yet, not only did South Sydney win its first Premiership in 43 years; Sam Burgess played a majority of the Grand Final with a fractured eye socket in what was a heroic performance.
While losing Luke is not ideal for Souths, it is clear they have effectively managed this situation before. As for Luke, there is plenty of time left for him to prove to Maguire that he is “up to scratch”.