Cameron Murray believes it would be "a tragedy" if Adam Reynolds was to leave South Sydney, as players urged the Rabbitohs to find a way to re-sign their NRL skipper.
State of Origin stars Murray and Damien Cook on Monday said it would be painful to see Reynolds in another club's jersey, as the halfback negotiates for a deal longer than the one-season extension on offer.
The premiership-winning half is angling for a longer-term deal, with the Rabbitohs cautious of over-committing to the 30-year-old as they have done in the past with ageing stars Sam Burgess and Greg Inglis.
But amid preparations for round one, Murray spoke in glowing terms of his skipper.
"I can comment on how much I love Adam Reynolds and how much I love playing alongside him, and how much of a shame it would be to see him leave," Murray said.
"I'm not sure when or if a deal will be done but it would be a tragedy if he left.
"I really want Adam to stay here, he's the life of the club.
"He's been one of the leaders in our return to form since early 2010, he's been instrumental of the success of the Bunnies over the last decade and he's still at the top of his game now.
"Over the last couple of years under Wayne Bennett he's played some of his best footy.
"He's still got a lot to offer. He's a great leader for us, he's a great captain."
The endorsement comes after Reynolds was last week criticised by former Queensland and Australia halfback Cooper Cronk for delivering Souths to three straight preliminary finals without a win.
Adding to the emotion is the fairytale rugby league story Reynolds represents - a local junior going on to play 206 games for the club he loves.
Co-captain Cook has also gone into bat for Reynolds but says he understands contract negotiations in the NRL can be messy.
"In a perfect world we'd love to see him stay for longer," Cook said.
"It would be hard to see him in any other colours other than red and green, he's South Sydney through and through.
"All the players love him here.
"Not only does he have the best kicking game in the competition but he's great around the sheds.
"He's been a great captain here, he holds the team together really well and keeps the spirit up and he's got a lot of energy."
Australian Associated Press