NRL rookie in call-up for depleted Souths

·2-min read

Wayne Bennett has been forced into another shuffle of his already decimated backline with rookie Dean Hawkins set to partner Benji Marshall in the halves against Melbourne.

The 22-year-old Hawkins made his NRL debut against Brisbane in round five but has been recalled by Bennett for Thursday night's clash at Stadium Australia.

His 14-minute stint off the bench in Souths' 35-6 win over the Broncos last month is all the experience he'll be armed with against Melbourne, who are angling to re-join the top four with a win.

To make way for Hawkins, Cody Walker will move back to fullback where he has played for the past fortnight while Latrell Mitchell serves out a suspension.

"He's capable, so we'll see how he goes tomorrow night," Bennett said.

"It's just trying to get the balance right with a number of players missing.

"Once Latrell comes back, that will put him back to fullback and Cody will go back into his position. We're just trying to make the best of what we've got."

Alex Johnson was originally named at fullback and will move to the wing, with Taane Milne dropping out of the side.

Off-contract halfback Adam Reynolds is still at least another week away with a thumb injury, while Cameron Murray (ankle) and Campbell Graham (hand) will both miss a month.

Winger Jaxon Paulo will also miss eight weeks after surgery on a fractured thumb.

The upheaval has allowed unlucky winger Braidon Burns to return to first grade after a number of injuries have hampered his rise.

The 24-year-old has played 32 games in four seasons for the Rabbitohs after various leg injuries.

"He's had a couple of injuries since I've been here, but he's rehabbed really well and he's always giving his best, so I like what he brings," Bennett said.

"(The injuries are) a big of a challenge for all of us, but a lot of clubs are in the same boat.

"We thought we had a pretty good squad here before we started the season, we still think we've got a pretty good squad.

"At the moment they're doing their job for us, because we have to rely on everyone."

Despite the depletion in their squad, Souths are third on the ladder after eight games having lost just their opening round match against Melbourne, who raced to a 22-0 lead after 30 minutes.

Souths have dismal record against the Storm, winning five of 35 games and one draw, and have never won in Melbourne.

"The thing we take away from (round one) it is we don't want to start like we did down there," Bennett said.

"They're always quality, they've been a quality side for probably two decades.

"This year is no different to any other year and we've got a challenge in front of us."