South Sydney gutsy, but loss adds to pressure on Jason Demetriou

Scott Bailey
AAP
3 Min Read
Souths coach Jason Demetriou looks set for another testing week after losing to Cronulla. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)
Souths coach Jason Demetriou looks set for another testing week after losing to Cronulla. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Jason Demetriou insists he expects to hold onto his job as South Sydney’s coach, despite a gutsy Rabbitohs being unable deliver a pressure-relieving win against Cronulla.

Down to one man on the bench by halftime, Souths did well to stay in the contest before going down 34-22 at Accor Stadium on Saturday night.

But spirited as they may have been with captain Cameron Murray (concussion) among the injured, the Bunnies remain last on the ladder with five wins from their past 19 games.

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Souths chairman Nick Pappas had said ahead of the game they needed to show a newfound confidence, stability and determination to win.

Otherwise the club would need to “do some hard thinking”.

How bosses assess the latest loss and their last 11 months of football will now determine Demetriou’s fate ahead of the Rabbitohs’ bye next weekend.

When asked after the defeat if he still expected to be the coach, Demetriou responded: “I expect so. Nobody has told me otherwise.

“We’ll review the game, turn up, and if not, we’ll find out.”

Demetriou was also adamant he was proud of his side, who managed to fight back from 16 points down in the second half and make it a six-point ball game late.

It came despite early injuries to Tevita Tatola (possible foot fracture) and Tyrone Munro (collarbone), and with debutant Jye Gray impressing at fullback either side of his own HIA.

But still the drums have been beating at Redfern, in a week where club bosses were forced to deny claims a shortlist of contenders to replace Demetriou had been prepared.

“It’s not ideal, and don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to be going through this,” Demetriou said.

“But the reality is it’s elite sport, we’re a huge club, I’m disappointed for our members and supporters to hear some of the things that aren’t just accurate.

“But I understand why the noise is there. It’s results driven and we’re not getting the results.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 13: Cody Walker of the Rabbitohs gestures 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)
Cody Walker is one of a number of senior Rabbitohs failing to fire. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Demetriou said he would take time with his family on Sunday, but was insistent he had not been beaten down by the scenario.

“I won’t walk around with my head down. I’ve got no reason to,” he said.

“I’ve worked my backside off to get into this position as head coach of one of the biggest rugby league clubs in the world.”

The most concerning thing for Souths on Saturday was still their defence.

Since sitting atop the NRL ladder last May, they have now let in 26 points or more in 15 of those games.

With Latrell Mitchell suspended, Alex Johnston injured and Damien Cook dropped for the Bunnies, Ronaldo Mulitalo ran riot for Cronulla.

The Sharks winger bagged a double in the win, while also setting up two other tries.

His first came when he cut back infield to beat three men from a scrum and another after Braydon Trindall grubbered for him with fill-in fullback Jack Wighton up in the line.

Mulitalo’s play of the night was a freakish assist, when he leapt high to collect a Nicho Hynes bomb and get an offload away while falling for Teig Wilton to score.

And after both sides traded tries after the break to make it 22-12, it was Mulitalo who put Cronulla 16 clear when he batted back a Trindall kick for Wilton to have his second.

Burgess and Isaiah Tass then both scored in the space of six minutes late to offer Souths some hope, but a Blayke Brailey four-pointer sealed the match and put Cronulla first on the ladder.

Australian coach Mal Meninga, who was on the Fox Sports panel for the coverage, said during the week he would have an “interest” in coaching South Sydney until the end of the year if Demetriou was sacked.

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