Jason Demetriou hits back at Anthony Seibold in NRL war of words over Las Vegas

Manly's coach took a shot at South Sydney for the failure to promote the season opener in Las Vegas.

From left to right, Souths coach Jason Demetriou and Manly counterpart Anthony Seibold.
Souths coach Jason Demetriou (left) has responded to a swipe from Manly counterpart Anthony Seibold about their Las Vegas NRL showdown. Pic: Getty

South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has denied suggestions from Manly opposite Anthony Seibold that his club is failing to promote the NRL's historic double-header in Las Vegas. Seibold - who used to coach the Rabbitohs - lit the fuse for the showdown between the two clubs in the United States on March 2 (March 3 AEDT), when he questioned why Demetriou's side weren't going to be in Vegas promoting the spectacle.

The Rabbitohs - like Brisbane and the Roosters - will have their training camps based in California before flying to Las Vegas before the round one matches at Allegiant Stadium. It leaves Manly as the only club that will base themselves in Sin City when they arrive in the States, with Seibold singling out South Sydney for criticism when speaking about his opponents on Wednesday.

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“(It) would be nice if the Bunnies came to Las Vegas to promote the game," the Manly coach responded bluntly after being told about a comment from Demetriou earlier in the week. The Souths coach joked that he would put some money behind the bar for the Sea Eagles players in Vegas before the two teams clash in the first match of the 2024 season.

Demetriou said it should have been obvious that his comment was "tongue in cheek" and came after a "ridiculous" question relating to the players going out drinking while they were in Sin City. The Rabbitohs coach stopped short of getting into a slanging match with his Manly counterpart but stressed that his club was doing its bit to promote the game in America.

Pictured right is Manly coach Anthony Seibold and Jason Demetriou on left.
Manly coach Anthony Seibold (right) took a swipe at how Jason Demetriou's South Sydney side have promoted the NRL's season-opener in Las Vegas. Pic: Getty

“I’m not going to buy into it, really," Demetriou told the Daily Telegraph. It (came from) a comment I made to a ridiculous question about players going out and it couldn’t be more tongue in cheek. In terms of promoting the game our club is renowned, and putting our hand up to come over here in the first place shows how committed we are to promoting the game. We’re promoting it to America, so it’s good the clubs have spread themselves to different areas. Anyone that knows me, knows I’m not putting money over the bar.’’

Anthony Seibold 'trusts' players to behave in Las Vegas

Seibold's seemingly unprovoked swipe at the Bunnies has lit the fuse for what promises to be a fiery season-opening showdown. The Manly coach bristled at suggestions Sin City could prove a challenging setting for his squad to avoid off-field controversies and said he "trusted" his players to maintain their discipline as the team showcases the sport to America.

“One of the reasons we’re going there 11 days beforehand is to promote the game," Seibold told reporters before his squad flew out of Sydney airport on Wednesday. “The NRL have wanted to take the game to Las Vegas so we’re doing our job. All our training sessions are open sessions so supporters and the media are more than welcome to come to all of our sessions.

“We’ve got a lot of corporates and members and supporters coming across so we want to do the right thing by the game. I’m not concerned about other clubs. Every team has their own way to prepare, but we feel obligated and obliged to promote the game in Las Vegas where the game is being played.

“There have been some comments from others, but that’s okay. We know what we need to do to minimise those distractions. We’ve got a fantastic group of adults in our squad and there’s a lot of trust. We want to promote the game and be visible in Vegas.”

Seibold concedes the tactical battle between his Manly side and Souths will be intriguing on a shorter and narrower Allegiant Stadium field than NRL clubs are used to. Regulation grounds in Australia are 100 metres from goal line to goal line and 68 metres wide, with the field in Las Vegas just 94.5 metres long and 63.1 metres wide.

Teams have already mentioned the importance of their kicking game and both Manly and the Rabbitohs have been training on smaller fields in preparation for the blockbuster. "You want to play really direct," Seibold said. Souths have had an opportunity to train on a small field and so have we. Both coaching groups and senior players will have come up with some tactics that might change."

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