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Alex McKinnon in staggering call on Jason Demetriou as Lachlan Ilias axed at Souths

Ilias has been brutally dropped by the Bunnies just two games into the new season.

Former NRL star Alex McKinnon says Souths coach Jason Demetriou "probably won’t be coaching the club by the end of the season" after axing halfback Lachlan Ilias just two games into the new season. Demetriou was scathing in his assessment of his players after their round two defeat to Brisbane and Ilias is set to pay the price for their 0-2 start to the NRL season.

Dean Hawkins has been confirmed to start at No.7 after he was spotted training at halfback on Monday ahead of Souths' grudge match with arch-rivals the Roosters on Friday night. But McKinnon is among those to question the decision from the Souths coach and says Demetriou is essentially "throwing out an entire pre-season" of preparation after just two games.

Former NRL star Alex McKinnon thinks Souths coach Jason Demetriou may be out of a job come the end of the season. Pic: Getty
Former NRL star Alex McKinnon thinks Souths coach Jason Demetriou may be out of a job come the end of the season. Pic: Getty

"The most vocal person and biggest communicator in getting everybody on the same page is the halfback," McKinnon wrote for foxsports.com.au. "Dropping Ilias after just two games is the reason Demetriou probably won’t be coaching the club by the end of the season."

McKinnon pointed to the fact that Souths chose to let veteran halfback Adam Reynolds to leave for Brisbane after backing Ilias to become one of the Rabbitohs' greatest halfbacks. He also suggested that Demetriou had set the young No.7 up to fail after shifting his usual partner on the right edge, Keaon Koloamatangi, over to the left side of the Rabbitohs attack.

The former Newcastle Knights star says the role Ilias has been playing at the Rabbitohs makes no sense and their lack of direction is hurting the team. "The way they’re playing it looks like they’re lacking someone to show them the way & for the rest to follow," McKinnon added. "Walker is already pretty much playing as the halfback, against the Broncos he and Latrell kicked the whole game. Like, what was Ilias’ role?"

Seen here, Souths stars Lachlan Ilias and Latrell Mitchell.
Critics believe Lachlan Ilias has been made a 'scapegoat' at Souths after being axed over the club's poor start to the NRL season. Pic: Getty

Sam Burgess criticism of Souths back in the spotlight

The NRL 360 panel spoke about Ilias' brutal axing on Monday night and agreed that a halfback should be the predominant kicker. Co-host Paul Kent said Souths' problems went much deeper than Ilias and suggested former assistant Sam Burgess' belief that superstars Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker had too much influence on the side, carried weight.

Kent said Ilias' replacement at halfback is also going to encounter the same problems, if he has the decision-making responsibilities taken away from him. “The problem with South Sydney, he (Ilias) had one kick in the first half against Brisbane, as a halfback you should be the predominant kicker,” Kent said.

“That was taken out of his hands on the field, decisions were made. Dean Hawkins who is coming in, by all counts he’s very talented. My point is if Hawkins comes in and the same players who took control off Lachlan Ilias, take control off him, nothing changes. That’s the issue, lets peel back this halfback situation at the moment and try to get to this deeper problem as to what’s wrong with Souths.

“Which nobody at Souths seems willing to do, Sam Burgess was willing to speak up about it last year and he got rissoled, he’s now over at Warrington. There’s got to be some accountability over there and it seems like everyone’s avoiding problems within the running of the team.”

Critics say Lachlan Ilias is a 'scapegoat' at Souths

Kent and fellow panelist Brent Read agreed Ilias had been made a "scapegoat" at Souths and believed the problems Burgess addressed last year hadn't been resolved. Burgess left his role as Rabbitohs assistant after falling out with Demetriou for calling out the slipping standards at training and claiming Mitchell and Walker were being given preferential treatment and weren't held to the same standards as others.

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“It feels like a scapegoat decision, there’s other guys who aren’t playing well. This is a kid who only last year the coach said will be one of the great halfbacks in South Sydney history,” Read said. “Gave him all the support he needed at that point, now two games into the season and he’s gone... “Sam suggested there were issues and it looks like those issues haven’t gone away”.

Kent added: “I think this guy (Ilias) has been made a scapegoat... there’s the problem of the honesty and accountability in the team which was a problem last year. They all told us it got addressed over the summer, some said there was no problem in the first place. It’s become apparent after two weeks, it’s still there, it’s still a problem.”

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