17th March 2021, 17:40 | nrl
Canberra’s English prop Ryan Sutton believes a holiday to the Whitsunday Islands has provided the ideal preparation for his best season in the NRL yet.
Sutton, who missed the Raiders 2020 finals campaign after suffering a knee injury in the last round of the regular season, took the opportunity to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
The former Wigan forward said the time away had left him feeling relaxed at the start of the season and he played a key role in last weekend’s opening round defeat of Wests Tigers.
"This year is the only year I've had where I've switched off completely from rugby,” Sutton said ahead of Sunday’s clash with Cronulla.
"It made me realise that I probably do a bit too much prepping for the year.
"Me and my girlfriend went away to the Whitsundays and I literally just switched off. It is completely different up there compared to what we are used to in Canberra.
“I went to Whitehaven beach, which has the whitest sands in the world, and it was just good to get away and shut off.
"I've come back this year into the pre-season in the best condition I've been in a long time.”
The shorter off-season was more intense as Raiders coach Ricky Stuart prepared his team for the new rules changes that Sutton said ensured the ball was in play for longer.
Starting from the interchange, Sutton carried the ball 125 metres in 14 runs during his 38 minutes of playing time and helped the Raiders to a 30-12 win after the scores had been locked at 6-6 at halftime.
“I am always looking to improve year on and year and I think obviously my cardiovascular levels are going to have to be good so I need to keep on top of that,” he said.
“I am not the biggest middle in the world and I never will be so I am not looking to run straight at 125kg props.”
Round two starts on Thursday with premiers Melbourne taking on Parramatta, who came from behind to beat Brisbane 24-16 last weekend.
The Warriors, who were the only first up winners not to feature in last year’s finals series, travel to Newcastle on Friday, with the Knights having named Huddersfield teenager Dom Young in their squad.
Gold Coast Titans, who lost 19-6 to the Warriors, host the Broncos on Friday in a South-East Queensland derby.
The Trent Barrett-coached Canterbury Bulldogs will be chasing their first win on Saturday against Penrith, whom he is widely credited with helping to last year’s grand final.
However, the Bulldogs are still without suspended England prop Luke Thompson for another three weeks.
After last weekend’s 46-4 loss to Sydney Roosters, Manly will also be hoping for an improved performance against South Sydney, who have named Tom Burgess in the frontrow.
The England prop was taken from the field in a neck brace during last Thursday’s 26-18 loss to the Storm but he has been cleared of a serious injury.
St George Illawarra are another side seeking better fortunes after their 32-18 loss to Cronulla and face a North Queensland team aiming to bounce back from a 24-0 defeat by Penrith.
The Tigers will also be looking for their first win of the season when they host the Roosters on Sunday.