MARK CARROLL: South Sydney players hold Jason Demetriou’s NRL fate in their hands and they need to step up

MARK CARROLL
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Only the players can save Jason Demetriou but they appear unwillinging to dig-in to do that.
Only the players can save Jason Demetriou but they appear unwillinging to dig-in to do that. Credit: Getty Images;AAP

For weeks the talk in rugby league has been dominated by South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou and his future following the Bunnies’ disastrous start to the season.

Five losses in six games looks bleak for his ongoing employment prospects.

The dogs are barking he’s gone, maybe before the month is out, although the Rabbitohs’ fighting 12-point loss to Cronulla on Saturday night may buy him some time.

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The Bunnies boss walked into Accor Stadium to see fans holding up a “Time to Go Demetriou” sign.

Imagine entering your workplace and seeing that.

Souths official have hardly been strong in their support of JD – another clear sign to me that they have given up on him and are ready to activate Plan B.

Demetriou talked up Saturday’s performance in the post-match press conference but his eyes gave him away.

He looked a man who knows his fate is sealed – and that makes my blood boil.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 13: Rabbitohs coach, Jason Demetriou speaks to the media following the round six NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks at Accor Stadium, on April 13, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Jason Demetriou tried to stay positive in the post-match press conference. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

If Demetriou is punted, some of these Souths players will have blood on their hands.

I’m sick and tired of players taking the easy way out and blaming everyone and anyone but themselves when it comes to poor performances.

I didn’t see Demetriou miss one tackle, throw one wayward pass, give away a single penalty or a knock a ball on in any of those five defeats.

I didn’t witness him putting himself before the team, going rogue and off the game plan or displaying ill-discipline and leaving his team short a player.

Yet he is the one under the gun.

Give me a break.

How about the players front up and take some blame.

I haven’t heard one say: “Leave the coach out of this. This is on me. My form hasn’t been good enough.”

Instead, it’s been a litany of excuses and cop-outs delivered with the usual cliches.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 13: Jack Wighton of the Rabbitohs reacts at full-time during the round six NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks at Accor Stadium, on April 13, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Jack Wighton has failed to deliver on his status as a big-name signing. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Words mean nothing if they’re not backed up by actions.

We didn’t suffer too many losses at Manly under coach Bob Fulton, but on the rare occasions we did, he expected us to own our errors and make amends the next time around.

We normally did. Bozo didn’t hand out too many second chances.

The Rabbitohs were tipped by many to take out this year’s premiership.

Now they’re in a battle to stave off the wooden spoon.

Something hasn’t looked right all season. They are clunky in attack and defensively weak.

And that’s simply not good enough for a club of this stature.

I played for South Sydney and know first-hand the expectation and pressure that goes with pulling on that famous jumper.

South Sydney Versus Umina at North Power Stadium.
Photo shows.....Mark Carroll on the burst
Mark Carroll played for South Sydney from 1990 to 1993. Credit: Simon Alekna/Fairfax

Their fans are loyal but demanding and know their football.

Some supporters get over a loss the moment they walk out the gate.

Not the mob at Souths.

Their whole week is governed by how their team went on the weekend and they are really hurting right now.

The pride of the league is currently the slide of the league.

They are 17th on the table – stone motherless last.

So, where does it leave Demetriou if he is given the bullet?

There’s little chance he’ll be given a head coaching role at another club in the near future, meaning he will be an assistant at best or out of the game altogether.

And that just doesn’t sit right with me.

If some of his players had had more of a dig over the past few weeks, he’d still be in a job.

Whoever they bring in as coach - if there is to be a change – will have the heat on him from the get-go.

The finals look a bridge too far but there is still a chance to regain some respect and make something from the 2024 season.

That’s largely down to the players.

They created this mess - now it’s up to them to make it right.

AND DON’T GET ME STARTED...

Another thing that makes my blood boil is hearing Queensland is more passionate about State of Origin than us New South Welshmen.

As someone who pulled on a Blues jumper several times, I call complete and utter bullsh*t on that.

But I do concede the Maroons have had it over us in one area.

And that’s in the way they treat their former players.

Queensland’s FOGs (Former Origin Greats) has been established for decades and act as real inspiration and support for the current day players.

Benny Elias and Laurie Daley celebrate after winning game two of Origin in 1994.
Benny Elias and Laurie Daley celebrate after winning game two of Origin in 1994. Credit: Getty Images/Getty Images

The FOGs are invited to official functions and fully embraced.

They are a big part of the Maroons’ set-up.

But I am happy to report the Blues are getting their act together when it comes to looking after their ex-players.

Brad Fittler was good in that area and new coach Michael Maguire stepped it up further by inviting around 40 of us to an old boys’ reunion at Sydney’s Harbour View Hotel last week.

Some of the all-time greats, including Mick Cronin, Greg Alexander, Garry Jack, Ben Elias and Brad Clyde, were in attendance and listened intently to Madge’s plans for 2024.

It doesn’t guarantee success but it’s a step in the right direction.

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