South Sydney may turn to reformed NRL bad boy Paul Carter to solve their hooking crisis with Issac Luke facing up to a month on the sidelines.
Luke and Rabbitohs playmaker Luke Keary became the latest victims of the NRL’s crackdown on the shoulder charge when they were both cited following Thursday’s win over North Queensland in Townsville.
Keary will only miss next week’s clash with Canterbury if he takes an early guilty plea for a hit on Cowboys three-quarter Justin O’Neill.
More of a concern to the resurgent Rabbitohs is the lengthy ban facing Luke who was slapped with shoulder charge and dangerous throw charges.
Should the New Zealand Test No.9 accept the bans for his shoulder charge on Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston and a dangerous throw on fullback Lachlan Coote, he would miss the final three rounds of the regular season.
If he elects to contest both charges, he risks his ban stretching into the first week of the finals.
It puts the Rabbitohs in a precarious position with back-up rake Cameron McInnes out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
Carter’s return to the NRL could not have come at a better time for coach Michael Maguire.
After being sacked by Gold Coast last year for off-field misdemeanours, Carter was thrown a lifeline by the Rabbitohs and played his first NRL game in nearly a year off the bench in Townsville.
He is highly regarded as a hard-hitting back-rower but has also spent time at dummy-half.
In his rookie year at the Titans he spent half the season as the team’s back-up hooker to Beau Falloon.
Maguire was full of praise for Carter following his first outing in the red and myrtle.
“I could see him down on the sideline, bouncing up and down ready to get out there and it’s a real credit to him,” Maguire said.
“He’s worked really hard since he’s been here and he deserved that tonight.
“We’re looking forward to seeing many more.”
The Rabbitohs’ other option is Scott Sorensen – the nephew of former New Zealand internationals Kurt and Dane Sorensen – who plays hooker for their NSW Cup team North Sydney.
The potential suspension of Keary also has the Rabbitohs in a bind after John Sutton suffered a hamstring injury against the Cowboys and missed the entire second half.
If Sutton does not recover, it would leave them without an established playmaker to partner Adam Reynolds.
Halfback Keary was at his aggressive best for Souths but appeared to overdo it in the first half when he went hard at O’Neill.
Keary was not put on report but the tackle was picked up by the match review committee given the crackdown announced by the NRL on the shoulder charge last week.