SOUTH SYDNEY skipper John Sutton has paid club owner Russell Crowe the ultimate compliment, revealing: “I wouldn’t still be in the NRL without him”.
The most capped Rabbitohs player ever, Sutton has credited Hollywood actor Crowe for also giving him the chance to become Souths’ first premiership captain in 43 years.
Conceding he took his gifts “for granted” before The Gladiator star’s $ 3 million takeover, Sutton now heads a host of local products — including Dylan Walker, Adam Reynolds and Alex Johnston — who are staying loyal to a club that once lost so many.
In fact, only last week, retired Souths centre Nigel Vagana told The Daily Telegraph that if not for Crowe, their homegrown captain would have been lost from the game completely.
“And what Nige is saying, yeah, I think he’s right,’’ Sutton reveals. “Russell took over this club at a time when we really needed it and his input, it’s been great for a lot of us players.
“I wouldn’t say Russell and I are close or anything but he’s been here basically for as long as I have. I just want to thank him for everything he’s done. I mean what else can I say?
“When I was younger, I just wanted to play first grade. I took a few of those years for granted and didn’t really see the bigger picture.
“But now … I think I’ve changed.”
Earlier this year, on the eve of Sutton passing club legend Bob McCarthy’s record for most games, Crowe revealed it was for local juniors like the gifted back-rower that he bought the club in 2006.
“Watching John through the seasons has been a pleasure and a revelation,’’ Crowe said. “From such a shy young man to the natural leader he is today … you would be hard pressed to find a more committed player in the game.
“And in times past, Souths probably wouldn’t have been able to hold on to a player of John’s calibre. But with the restructure of the club in 2006, one of our principal goals was to retain and develop as many of our juniors as practical — and to make history like this possible.”
He later added: “John is a great club man, a passionate South Sydney man and favourite son of the Rabbitohs members and fans.
“Over the years, plenty of other clubs have come calling because he is a top notch first grader. But between his loyalty to the club, and the club’s loyalty to him, we have been lucky enough to retain him and see him come forward and put his stamp on the game of rugby league.”
Apart from Crowe, who completely overhauled a club that had become a rugby league punchline, Sutton also credits his new tag as a Grand Final captain to coach Michael Maguire.
“Madge has taken my game to new heights,’’ he says. “I feel like he’s really pushed me and tested me these past couple of years and I’ve responded to that.
“I love this club, love the area and, from the time Madge came in, things have been great. He’s been a great addition not only for Souths but me personally.”
Originally published as How Crowe saved my career: Sutton