Souths coach in eye-opening admission as besieged NRL club hits historic low

The disappointing defeat to the Roosters capped off an awful end of the season for South Sydney.

Pictured left is Souths NRL coach Jason Demetriou.
Souths coach Jason Demetriou says the blame for his side's failure in 2023 rests with him. Pic: Getty

Souths coach Jason Demetriou admits he's "disaapointed" with the turmoil that has engulfed the club but has accepted blame for his side's historic late season collapse. The Rabbitohs' 26-12 loss to fierce rivals, the Sydney Roosters, means they have become the first side in the NRL era to lead the competition after 11 rounds, yet miss out on the finals.

Demetriou's men were among the premiership favourites in the first half of the season but since May, they have only won four out of 13 games to slip right out of finals contention. Incredibly, Friday night's defeat in the do-or-die final round clash against the Roosters marked just the second time all season that the Bunnies have found themselves outside the top eight.

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Their record capitulation caps off a dreadful few weeks for the club, following the shock departure of assistant coach Sam Burgess and the controversy surrounding Latrell Mitchell. The superstar fullback was labelled a "cancer" on the club by Rodney Churchill - the son of Rabbitohs legend Clive - in a swipe that left the league world shocked and outraged.

Mitchell was also at the centre of the messy Burgess saga, with reports the club great left his role as assistant with two weeks of the regular season remaining after being unhappy with the perceived preferential treatment the fullback and Cody Walker were receiving at the club. It's understood Burgess walked after refusing to back down on his assertions that standards at the club were not where they should be.

Rabbitohs coach says blame rests with him

Compounding matters for the Bunnies leading into Friday night's must-win game was the suspension to Mitchell for a needless elbow to the head of Newcastle's Tyson Frizell in the club's previous game. Speaking after the loss to the Roosters, Demetriou accepted that the off-field controversies were a "small part" of what went wrong for his side but said the blame for missing out on the finals ultimately rested with him.

Seen here, dejected Souths players after their final round loss to the Roosters in the NRL.
Souths' finals hopes were ended in the final round loss to the Roosters. Pic: Getty

"We're a pretty tight ship, we work our things out together and inside the four walls so it's disappointing that things are getting out," Demetriou said. "It's a small part of a lot of little things that have added to where we're at.

"It's going to be part of a deep review for sure. I've got to hold my hands up. I'm the head coach I have to make sure we're better and that we're not falling like we were.

"You can sit here and make excuses but it hurts, it's a tough lesson to learn." Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook put Friday night's loss largely down to "silly errors" that allowed the Roosters to keep the pressure on throughout the game.

When asked if the turmoil around the club had affected the team's performance, Cook told Channel Nine: "Not really, we were pretty close throughout the whole thing. There was some outside noise but as a playing group I could honestly say it didn't affect us."

Demetriou's side haven't been helped by the fact key forwards Tevita Tatola, Tom Burgess and Jai Arrow have rarely featured together in 2023. Mitchell has also been sidelined for large chunks of the season, having picked up a calf injury on the eve of State of Origin I that took more than two months for him to recover from. The Bunnies' record without their inspirational skipper does not make for pretty reading and his absence was undoubtedly felt on Friday night.

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Demetriou will lose prop Hame Sele, fullback Blake Taaffe and back-rower Jed Cartwright next year but will welcome big-money signing Jack Wighton from Canberra. The Souths coach will surely go into next season as a man under immense pressure though, having overseen a historic choke in 2023 that has left many fans seething.

with AAP

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