'Multi-millionaire NRL supporter' revealed as man behind Souths' approach to Mal Meninga

Souths boss Blake Solly says Mal Meninga was approached about the Rabbitohs coaching job without the club's blessing.

Rabbitohs boss Blake Solly has shut down reports the club has approached Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga to gauge his interest in taking the job as Souths caretaker coach. Solly admits while Meninga was contacted about the role, it was done by a "multi-millionaire supporter and third party sponsor" and without the NRL club's blessing.

The news comes as pressure continues to mount on besieged coach Jason Demetriou, after Souths suffered their fifth loss in six games this season, leaving them rock bottom ahead of next week's bye. Rumours swirled last week that the Rabbitohs coach was on borrowed time, with the likes of Meninga, Sam Burgess and Wayne Bennett linked to the club's top job.

Pictured right Mal Meninga and left Jason Demetriou
Souths boss Blake Solly says Mal Meninga was approached about the Rabbitohs coaching job without the club's blessing, insisting Jason Demetriou still has the board's backing. Image: Getty

But Demetriou is understood to be safe at least in the short-term after Souths' improved performance in last weekend's loss to the Sharks, with a decision set to be made on his future after their next two matches - against the Storm and Panthers. Solly said the premature approach of Meninga was made by a man known as 'The Art Dealer' and was not done on Souths' behalf.

The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield revealed on the Big Sports Breakfast radio program that Steve Misecki - known as 'The Art Dealer' in NRL circles - called Meninga last week asking about his potential interest in the job. "He’s a third-party sponsor of the club, a very, very successful man,” Rothfield said on Monday morning.

"He was the person who rang Mal Meninga last week and said ‘Would you be interested in taking on the job if JD (Jason Demetriou) was to go?’ Now I’m told Mal said yes, I’m very interested. But to Mal’s credit, he said he was not interested in talking about it while JD was still employed as head coach.

"If there was to be movement, if there was to be sacked, come back and have another chat. Mal I know for a fact did not knock them back, but said I’m not going to go further down the track in negotiations. Mal’s a good person, he’s not going to backstab anyone. He wanted clear water before he was to jump into that job."


Jason Demetriou's job at Souths safe for now

While it appears for now that Demetriou’s job is safe, the last-placed Rabbitohs face an almighty climb to get back into finals contention. The Bunnies have lost five of six, with a much-needed bye to come next weekend. Following the 34-22 defeat to the Sharks, Demetriou said he remained optimistic about keeping his job, despite just five wins in 19 games.

"Nobody has told me otherwise," Demetriou said. "We'll review the game, turn up, if not, we'll find out. We'll rest up and get some good training in the bye week... I won't walk around with my head down, I've got no reason to. I'm really proud that I get to represent these boys, our fans, our members, the staff. I'm excited about turning this around."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 09:  Rabbitohs head coach Jason Demetriou looks on during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at USANA Rabbitohs Centre on April 09, 2024 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Jason Demetriou's Bunnies have lost five of six in 2024, with a much-needed bye to come next weekend.

However, Rothfield says there is still serious uncertainty about the club's direction and future. "What I found disappointing from his (Solly’s) answers is that there is enormous uncertainty at the Rabbitohs for the remainder of the season," Rothfield said.

"He will not guarantee he would see out the rest of the year, let alone the whole three years of his contract. I thought they played with much more heart against the Sharks, but the scoreline will tell you they lost and gave up 34 points. It was chaos though. They had injuries and players play out of position. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Blake has not completely shut down speculation around the coach."