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Cartwright in as Rabbitohs lose Graham

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is pleased for ex-Panther Jed Cartwright but won’t wish him too much luck after he received a preliminary final call up for South Sydney with centre Campbell Graham ruled out. Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett confirmed Cartwright, who has played five games this season off the bench after joining Souths mid-season, will…

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is pleased for ex-Panther Jed Cartwright but won’t wish him too much luck after he received a preliminary final call up for South Sydney with centre Campbell Graham ruled out.

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett confirmed Cartwright, who has played five games this season off the bench after joining Souths mid-season, will come into the centres.

Graham’s injury is a big blow for the Rabbitohs given he has starred this season, scoring 13 tries in his 21 games.

“Campbell has a bit of a groin problem and we just haven’t had enough time to get it right,” Bennett said.

We’ve been managing it for about a month now and with that seven-day turnaround it isn’t long enough for him.“We’ll bring Jed Cartwright in there.”

Cleary, who let Cratwright go for more opportunity, is delighted for his former player.

“What a great opportunity for Jed, I’m very happy for him,” Cleary said.

“He started the year with us and was here through last year and years before that.

“It’s funny how things work out. He got an opportunity mid-season and signed a multi-year deal at Souths, and it was probably the best thing for him.

“We let him go to chase that opportunity, and now he is in a preliminary final against his old club.

“We wish him all the best.”

Asked if Cleary won’t wish too much luck on Cartwright in the grand final qualifier against his former club, he cheekily replied: “Correct.”

Bennett is confident Graham will be fit for a grand final should Souths defeat Penrith.

In the meantime, he expects Cartwright to excel in the centres against Penrith ace Stephen Crichton.

“Jed has been playing a fair bit there (in the centres) with us since we brought him into first grade, so we are pretty confident in him,” he said.

“He has also played a lot of centres in his football career, so it isn’t somewhere he hasn’t played before.

“I see a really good footballer player (in Jed). He is well skilled, and he has got good attributes, and I just like what he brings.

“The players like playing with him, he is reliable, and you can trust him.”

It’s fitting Cartwright will take on his former club in Penrith, where he played his juniors and one NRL game last season.

His father John also played 184 matches for the Panthers, while his grandfather Merv played a crucial role in the club’s foundation.

Bennett understands the significance of a Cartwright taking on Penrith in a preliminary final.

“It’s great, I’m pleased (for Jed),” he said.

“Cartwright is a great name. His father was a wonderful player, and I coached against his father, and I’ve seen his grandfather and the influence he had on the building of the club there.

“But it’s 2020 now, and he (Jed) is playing for Souths.”

Bennett confirmed forward Hame Sele will be elevated to the bench following Cartwright’s promotion to the starting side.

The Rabbitohs face a stern test against a Penrith side that has won 16 straight games.

Bennett had admitted he hadn’t watched much of the Panthers this season, but he has studied the minor premiers hard in the lead-up to Saturday’s grand final qualifier.

“I’ve watched them this week,” he said.

“I’ve been around coaching long enough to know that a team that wins 16 games in a row have to have a few things going for them, and they have.

“They are a good football team.”

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