South Sydney coach Michael Maguire is excited by the prospect of finally getting to field Adam Reynolds, John Sutton and Luke Keary in the same side.
While some have questioned his NRL finals bona fides, South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has welcomed halfback Adam Reynolds back into the side to face Manly on Friday with open arms.
Reynolds returns from suspension to join halves partner Luke Keary and pivot-turned-backrower John Sutton in the qualifying final at Allianz Stadium.
It’s just the second time the trio will start together.
Reynolds’ one week sideline stint represented the first time the 24-year-old had been unavailable since making his debut in round one, 2012.
Even the usually taciturn Maguire admitted Reynolds was sorely missed – opposition half Mitchell Pearce dominating in last week’s 22-18 win by the Roosters.
“Adam has great experience now in the NRL,” Maguire said.
“He knows how to control a game and really leads.
“The last couple of months he has really stood up in terms of the things he does around the organisation.
“When someone like that is missing you really feel it.”
Reynolds’ five finals performances over the last two years have been a mixed bag.
He’s had a couple of solid performances, was outpointed by Melbourne’s Cooper Cronk and Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans in two other clashes and hobbled from the field injured against Canterbury back in 2012.
But flanked by the exciting Keary and Sutton, you get the feeling Maguire is rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
“It was interesting, at the start of the season the plan was to have all three there,” Maguire said.
“But with Luke having a pec tear and John getting injured at the back end of the season we couldn’t get them all in the team.
“But now we have got them we are really settled and looking good.”
Maguire spent all pre-season working on a system to accommodate the trio but his plans were scuppered when Keary ruptured his pectoral muscle at February’s Auckland Nines and sidelined for five months.
Such was Maguire’s desire to keep Sutton in the forwards, centre Dylan Walker was handed the No.6 jumper in round one.
But after Sutton appeared to struggle with the heavier workload and Walker showed his inexperience at pivot, the idea was abandoned after successive defeats by Manly and Canberra early in the season.
Keary was rushed back for the round 17 clash against the Gold Coast as a last-minute inclusion in the five-eighth role and while he scored a try Souths were upset 14-10 by the Titans.
After dropping back to the bench for the win over Parramatta, Keary got his chance to slot in at playmaker when Sutton injured his ankle just minutes into a comfortable win over the Raiders in Canberra in July.
His combination with Reynolds helped the Rabbitohs reel off five wins from six games to lock in a top-four spot.
And it seems Maguire couldn’t be happier.
“Both Luke and Adam have gained some great confidence and belief in what they are doing,” he said.
“The rest of the team have great belief in them being in the side and that’s really important.”