Rabbitohs give rookie a shot at No 7 jumper

South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett has revealed Randwick-born rookie Dean Hawkins will replace the injured Adam Reynolds at halfback against Melbourne on Thursday, sparking a backline reshuffle.

Hawkins, who made his NRL debut off the bench against Brisbane in round 5, will don the No 7 jumper after originally being named as a reserve.

He will feel relieved to receive another first grade call-up after seriously hurting his leg following his debut versus the Broncos, prompting a three-week lay-off until he returned in the lower grades last week.

The 22-year old strolled over to see his mates after his debut – and, moments later, returned to the sheds with a huge gash in his leg that required 15 stitches.

He crowd surfed his group of mates but slipped and subsequently cut his leg on the railing area.

South Sydney players Damien Cook, Dean Hawkins and Josh Cook. Picture: Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

Hawkins’ inclusion at halfback means Cody Walker will shift from five-eighth to fullback, forcing Alex Johnston from the No 1 jumper back to the wing and Benji Marshall from halfback to the No 6.

Winger Taane Milne is the unlucky player to miss out.

Bennett has backed Hawkins to excel on the NRL stage against the Storm. With Reynolds tipped to leave the Rabbitohs at season’s end, it is also an opportunity for Hawkins to impress with an eye to the future.

“He will play,” Bennett said about Hawkins, who has come through the Rabbitohs’ junior representative grades to play in the Canterbury Cup and Jersey Flegg in 2019.

“He is a good young guy on the way up.

“He had a year off last year and built his body up because he is not a big guy, which has helped him a lot this year.

“He has been good in the lower grades.

“He only played for 10 or 12 minutes (on NRL debut), so he is capable, and we’ll see how good he is.”

Bennett also confirmed Reynolds wouldn’t return after rupturing ligaments in his right thumb until at least round 11 against Penrith at Dubbo’s Apex Oval.

“Hopefully, the week after, but I don’t think he will be back next week,” he said.

In the meantime, Bennett is just doing his best with the squad that he has available.

“I’m just trying to get the balance right with the players missing,” he said.

“When Latrell comes back, we can move Cody back to his normal position (at five-eighth).

“I’m just trying to make the best of what we’ve got.”

Braidon Burns has been named to play his first NRL game in 2021 against Melbourne on Thursday following a horror run of injuries. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

Outside back Braidon Burns will play his first game this season after dislocating his knee last year.

Burns has been named in the centres, and Bennett is expecting a performance full of enthusiasm given his extended time on the sidelines.

“He has spent most of the time in the physio, so I don’t see a lot of him,” he joked.

“But he is a first grader. He has played 30-40 games of first grade, so we know what we are going to get from him.

“He has had a few injuries since I’ve been here, but he rehabs well and always gives his best. I like what he brings.”

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