Do Rabbitohs lies spell the end for Inglis?
GREG Inglis is one of the true champions of our game. His future remains clouded though.
South Sydney players were guarded at Tuesday's training. They are aware a little can become a lot if care is not taken and so, when questions turned to Inglis, they tightened.
There has been speculation this week Inglis is about to retire. It is the conversation dominating the game and already too many are hearing too much for the Rabbitohs to believe they can sit on it much longer.
Certainly the Rabbitohs are concerned.
A high-level meeting was held Monday involving coach Wayne Bennett, chief executive Blake Solly, general manager Shane Richardson and acting captain Sam Burgess.
They were talking about Inglis.
When he failed to turn up to training last week the story was quickly put out that Inglis was suffering food poison. Elsewhere others, not in the know, claimed Inglis was inside receiving physio.
The club finally got on the same page and finally a dodgy vindaloo became the culprit.
When Souths went down to Manly on Saturday Inglis failed to show up at the game. As club captain, the best it could be described as is unusual.
The club gave no explanation and Inglis's absence passed without comment. Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe claimed from New York that he understood Inglis would be named on Tuesday night.
Inglis is in a vulnerable state.
His vulnerability is … his vulnerability.
Soon after his retirement Broncos great Gorden Tallis spoke about the neck injury that finally ended his career.
Tallis was a rare one. He was at his best when it was personal. The more physical it got the more he thrived. His body, and the gifts it possessed, was his weapon.
"Your body is your armour," he said, referencing the neck. "And once you've got a chink in your armour you're not the same."
That is where Inglis is now.
It must be a frightening place.
All his life he has walked onto a football field knowing that given even terms he would more often than not get the better of his opponents. He filled a career with highlight reel moments.
Slowly, though, injuries put chinks in the armour.
It began with his knee. Off-season operations, cartilage removed, the chronic pain involved. In horse racing they'd say he was running on a baldy tyre.
Inglis pushed through and continued to rise to rare heights. That's what champions do.
Over time the injuries began stacking up. He had off-season neck surgery, a month-long recovery turning into a three month rehabilitation.
He put on a worrying amount of weight, the conversation quickly buried under multiple layers of diversions and denials.
Bennett picked him for Round 1 regardless, prepared to play him into condition.
That experiment ended after a sombre performance against St George Illawarra in Round 2o.
Inglis struggled physically against the Dragons. He couldn't will his way to victory.
For perhaps the first time the body appeared to desert him.
He missed rounds three and four with a shoulder injury.
Players usually know it about themselves before anyone else catches on. Did he know it was coming?
Inglis announced over the summer he would retire at the end of 2020. It was an unusual statement, and worrying.
Unusual because players announcing their retirements ahead of time is only a recent occurrence and nobody announces it when it is still two seasons away.
Worrying, because it showed where Inglis's head was at. Two seasons still to run on his contract and already he was thinking of retirement.
It is a conversation every player has, but it was the timing that was peculiar.
Tallis knew retirement was close the day he was heading to a game on the team bus and as the bus pulled up next to a set of lights, a pub to their left, he admitted to himself how he'd rather be in there than on the field.
Once the thoughts begin they are hard to knock back.
Fromer Cronulla hooker Mick Ennis, talking about Inglis on Monday night, said he knew the time for retirement was right when he found himself running on the field and eyeing off the opposition opposite him and, however briefly, found himself questioning whether he really wanted to do it anymore.
Inglis is worrying the Rabbitohs.
They worry about his future and where retirement will take him. They worry about where he is at now.
They worry about how to handle what remains of his career, however long that might be.
Late Tuesday they gave him a week's leave.
Officially it was to give him space to recover from his shoulder injury.
A lot more is being considered, though.