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.
Despite making his first-grade debut in the centres, eventually Sutton forged his way into the halves for the Rabbitohs in the mid-2000s, while also mixing it up in the forward as a ball-playing backrower.
One of his halves partners at the time, Joe Williams, says that despite being a younger player in the squad, Sutton was one of the most imperative for the Red and Green during the Club’s rebuilding period.
“He was always a quiet kid that just got on with it,” Williams stated.
“That’s what is so good about him - nothing is ever a fuss and that is why he’s been so successful over a number of years. He just does his work and there’s no nonsense about it.
“Sutto getting injured in the first year when we played in the halves together really hurt my season, because I had no five-eighth to play outside me. That’s how good he was.”
Regarded as a quiet achiever, Williams says that his halves partner had both the size and vision to be a successful five-eighth, and praised his confidence to call the shots despite being a rookie at the time.
“He was quiet on the field in the early days, but when you didn’t get him the ball when he wanted it, he certainly wasn’t quiet,” Williams laughed.
“He’d give you a lip-full because he knew he could do something with it. He showed that confidence.
“What was so good with Sutto playing six was that he was so imposing - he was a big guy so when you threw the ball at him he commanded attention,” Williams explained.
“It was good for me because they weren’t looking at me, they were looking at this big kid that was in form.
“He was always so good to play with because he wouldn’t call the ball unless he really wanted it. There are some players who call for it because they want it in their hands, but whenever Sutto called for it, you always knew you had to get it to him because you knew he could see something.
“And usually when he wanted the ball, something was happening around him.
If you needed any more convincing as to how respected Sutton is by his peers, at the time of the interview, Williams was in South Australia on tour speaking at clinics on mental health. Upon finding out the details for the Testimonial Match, he expressed his interest in attending the event.
The former Rabbitohs halfback reminisced on his playing time with Sutton, and was thrilled to see his old teammate get an opportunity to have his career celebrated at such a special event.
“We used to drive to training every day and have those conversations of ‘Did we do well enough to get into the team this week?’ and ‘How are we going to go against this team', but it was no surprise to see him do what he has done,” Williams admitted.
“A lot of the time when Sutto and I played together he was injured. He’s the most capped player in Souths history, and probably could have played an extra 50 games if he wasn’t.
“But it’s great to see his growth and development not only as a footy player but as a leader, and he was an easy player to play with because he knew what he was doing.
“Of all the players I’ve played with, he’s one of the most deserving of a Testimonial.”