Jason Demetriou has taken a subtle dig at under-fire Blues coach Brad Fittler over his use of Rabbitohs pair Damien Cook and Cameron Murray in the disastrous State of Origin Game II defeat. Speaking to reporters on Saturday ahead of his side's NRL clash against the Cowboys, the Rabbitohs coach weighed in on the Maroons' mauling of NSW, while revealing that Latrell Mitchell will not return to action for another month.
Demetriou confirmed Mitchell was ruled out of Origin Game III - having missed the first two games - as his troublesome calf injury has not responded to treatment as expected. “It’s taken longer than we thought. With the calf, they can sometimes scan better than they are," the Rabbitohs coach said. "We had the same with Hame [Sele] earlier in the year, and we’ve had similar problems with Jacob Host –the scan says one thing, but the way they respond and are able to train is the opposite."
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Following Sunday's match against the Cowboys, the Rabbitohs then face the Warriors in round 18 and the Bulldogs in round 19, with South Sydney targeting a return for Mitchell after their round 20 bye. “We’re not in the position where we need to rush it at all. We need to make sure we get Latrell fit and firing for after that bye week," Demetriou said.
“[By being conservative] it takes the pressure off him in terms of trying to get on the field here and for Origin, and just focus on his rehab.” The Bunnies coach revealed that Cook and Murray would back up for Sunday's showdown with the Cowboys, having both featured in the Blues' 32-6 loss to Queensland on Wednesday night.
Rabbitohs coach questions Brad Fittler's Origin calls
When asked for his thoughts on their performances in Origin II, Demetriou delivered a telling shot at Fittler after questioning why Murray was left on the bench for 50 minutes. “I don’t know what to say. It’s done us a favour bringing Cam on with 30 minutes to go, that’s for sure," the Rabbitohs coach said.
“I’m not too sure how a player of his level sits on the bench for 50 minutes. It’s up to the coaches. It’s never easy. You get it right, you don’t get the plaudits. You get it wrong, you get hammered. It’s the unfortunate part of being the head coach. I’m sure Freddy will wear that. Hindsight is a wonderful thing."
Souths coach wouldn't have played Damien Cook at centre
Demetriou's criticism wasn't finished there, with the Souths mentor admitting he would not have played Cook in the centres, following the game-ending injury to Tom Trbojevic after just three minutes. Fittler was roundly panned by Blues fans and league experts over the Cook call, and while the Rabbitohs coach understands that the hooker's speed was key to the decision, he does not think it was the right call.
“With Cooky, I can understand it. It’s not what I would do, but I can understand the thought process behind it. I still thought they could have got Cam (Murray) on earlier.”
The South Sydney coach joked that Cook's foray into the centres for NSW prompted an argument from the Rabbitohs rake to be given a pay rise. “I’ve been here five years and at least every two months Cooky has asked for a pay rise,” Demetriou said.
"He’s played in the centres and reckons they get more money. He went into the back seven meeting instead of the forwards. That was the first problem this morning."
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