Alex Johnston is set to start the season in his preferred position of fullback but how long he wears the South Sydney Rabbitohs No.1 jersey will depend on Greg Inglis.
After completing his first full week of training last week, Inglis is unsure exactly when he will return from the knee injury suffered in last season’s opening game but it is likely the Rabbitohs captain will ease his way back into the fullback role.
New Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold will leave both decisions to Inglis but if he believes his fitness is not up to the demands of playing fullback Inglis will return at left centre before deciding when he feels ready to shift to the back.
“Each and every day, I want to continue for round one but when it comes it comes,” Inglis said. “Whether I play Charity Shield, round one or round four, there’s no timeframe on it.
“Seibs has left it to me, he wants me to play but he’s more about making sure the person’s right first before the footballer.”
While recovering from his injury, Inglis has been working closely with Johnston and rookie fullback Jesse Arthars on their positioning in attack and defence.
However, Inglis insisted that did not mean he was ready to hand over the No.1 jersey just yet.
“I just want to get back playing footy. Whether it is centre or whether it is fullback, we still haven’t made that decision yet,” he said. “It is pretty much like the timeframe for when I come back.”
Johnston said fullback was his preferred position but he would be willing to move to the wing when Inglis wanted to take the role back.
“I think at the start of the season I will be at No.1 and we will see how Greg is going,” Johnston told NRL.com. “If he feels up to it he might move back there but I think I will be No.1 for the time being.
“That is where I want my future to be, at No.1, so as much time as I get there I will be happy.”
Despite being in his fifth season as an NRL player, Johnston is still only 23 and it is widely expected he will become the club’s long-term fullback after Inglis.
“I love having AJ at the back,” Inglis said. “He’s obviously quick and very smart, and the more I can teach him about what to look out for in the fullback role, the better off we’re going to be as a team.”
Inglis said he had also been working closely with 19-year-old Arthars, who was the leading pointscorer in the 2016 under 20s competition while playing for the Melbourne Storm.
“He has really impressed me a lot with his willingness and keenness to learn at training,” Inglis said.
“He played fullback last Thursday for the [North Sydney] Bears against Parramatta and from the reports I got he did really well.”