As we look forward to celebrating John Sutton’s Testimonial Match this Saturday 23 February at Return to Redfern against the Penrith Panthers, we look back at the stages of Sutto’s career that made the man we know and love today.
Sutton made his first-grade debut in Round 17, 2004, but before that, he rose through the ranks as a proud South Sydney Junior with Kensington United and Coogee Wombats.
One person who saw the rise to stardom was Yileen ‘Buddy’ Gordon, who came through the grades at the same time as Sutton, making his first-grade debut a year later.
For Gordon, playing with and against Sutton was both a mesmerising and challenging experience.
Yileen 'Buddy' Gordon
It was awesome coming through the grades, playing with and against each other but he was always ahead of everyone with his skillset, and physical and mental attitude.
“I was playing for Alexandria Rovers and he was playing for Coogee Wombats. He was a very smart player, and very hard to mark at five-eighth.
“Playing at fullback, his bombs were a nightmare to take and at the time I don’t remember ever beating him.
“It was awesome coming through the grades, playing with and against each other but he was always ahead of everyone with his skillset, and physical and mental attitude.”
But what was it exactly that made Sutton stand out from the rest? How did he get to where he is now as the most capped Rabbitoh of all time, and a premiership-winner to boot?
“Everything that the coaching staff asked for he was able to do, and he did it well with the skillset he had," explained Gordon.
"When he applied himself he could do anything. He looked after himself really well and I knew he had a long career, but to play 300 games is incredible.
“He helped out a lot with my game, and it was great to have someone around there that was the same age and another young Souths player to debut from the South Sydney area.
“We were very lucky at the time to have a lot of Souths Juniors in the team at the time playing on the biggest stage playing NRL footy.”
After 309 NRL matches, an NRL Premiership, a World Club Challenge title, numerous representative honours, perhaps the biggest honour will come this Saturday at the Metricon High Performance Centre at Redfern Oval.
Sutton’s career will be celebrated with a day filled with football starting at 12:30pm, appropriately as the Harold Matthews, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg sides - teams that he played for once upon a time - will be playing before the main game.
For Buddy, it’s something he believes is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that is more than deserved for Sutton.
“I’m couldn’t be happier for him,” expressed Gordon
“You look at the other testimonials like the Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston one last year, and for Sutto to have his at Redfern Oval, at our spiritual ground, it’s going to be great.
“I can’t wait to watch him enjoy his moment and it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to do what he’s done.
“When it comes to South Sydney, he’s right up there.”
John Sutton's Testimonial is a fully licensed and catered event, patrons will be able to enjoy a range of Young Henry's beer and cider, Robert Oatley wines, Garlo's pies and much more!