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Damien Cook in fresh selection twist as South Sydney coach hits back amid NRL storm

Jason Demetriou is making further changes after the Rabbitohs' poor start to the season.

Not content with dumping halfback Lachlan Ilias to reserve grade, Souths coach Jason Demetriou is also reportedly set to drop Damien Cook to the bench against the Roosters. Ilias became the fall guy for the Rabbitohs' 0-2 start to the NRL season this week, with Dean Hawkins to take over in the No.7 jersey.

But according to Adrian Proszenko of the Sydney Morning Herald, Cook is also set to be demoted from the starting side and will come off the bench this weekend. Proszenko has reported that Saliva Havili will start at hooker against the Roosters after a strong display in the middle against the Broncos last weekend.

Havili scored a try and set up another as the Rabbitohs came back to level the scores at 14-14 against Brisbane, before the Broncos ran away with the game. As for Cook, the State of Origin hooker has struggled to unlock his potent running game so far in 2024.

Jason Demetriou and Damien Cook.
Jason Demetriou is reportedly set to drop Damien Cook to the bench. Image: Getty

Jason Demetriou in terse response over Souths changes

But despite the brutal changes, Demetriou refused to explain his reasoning on Thursday at Souths training. Looking to Friday night's grudge match against the arch-rival Roosters, the coach said he believes his side is "not far off" clicking back into gear and putting their rough opening fortnight behind them.

"I won't explain my reasoning," he said. "It's a discussion for Lachy and myself. We've had that in depth and we'll continue to have those discussions. It's a step sideways to go forward again, and that's how we'll approach it. (Ilias) is fine. It's footy. We pick 17 blokes every week. It's not that dramatic."

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Demetriou said he had "no idea" how long Ilias would spend in NSW Cup. "We play Friday night and we go from there," he said, dismissing concerns over the culture at the club. "Inside the four walls, we're rock solid, we've trained well and prepared well for a big game tomorrow night against the Roosters. (The noise) is outside the four walls so it's not a problem for us."

Lachlan Ilias.
Lachlan Ilias has been axed to reserve grade. (Getty Images)

Rabbitohs coach refuses to answer Latrell Mitchell questions

Demetriou also bristled at questions over Latrell Mitchell's foul-mouthed interview on Triple M radio last weekend, for which the fullback has escaped punishment. Mitchell was summoned to NRL headquarters to meet with CEO Andrew Abdo on Wednesday night, but hasn't been fined for dropping the F-bomb at least five times and saying he didn't care.

"Again, it's about what goes on within our four walls," Demetriou said. "That's the beauty of this week, it's all been about business and what we need to control.

"We're not far off. At the end of the day, we led 20-12 against Manly and had a nine-minute period that we needed to address and showed some good signs defensively and improvements against the Broncos.

"It's round three, we're not going to be the team that we're going to be at the back end of the year now. We've had a tough start but we're making improvements."

with AAP