Souths coach Jason Demetriou admits he's "disaapointed" with the turmoil that has engulfed the club but has accepted blame for his side's historic late season collapse. The Rabbitohs' 26-12 loss to fierce rivals, the Sydney Roosters, means they have become the first side in the NRL era to lead the competition after 11 rounds, yet miss out on the finals.
Demetriou's men were among the premiership favourites in the first half of the season but since May, they have only won four out of 13 games to slip right out of finals contention. Incredibly, Friday night's defeat in the do-or-die final round clash against the Roosters marked just the second time all season that the Bunnies have found themselves outside the top eight.
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Their record capitulation caps off a dreadful few weeks for the club, following the shock departure of assistant coach Sam Burgess and the controversy surrounding Latrell Mitchell. The superstar fullback was labelled a "cancer" on the club by Rodney Churchill - the son of Rabbitohs legend Clive - in a swipe that left the league world shocked and outraged.
Mitchell was also at the centre of the messy Burgess saga, with reports the club great left his role as assistant with two weeks of the regular season remaining after being unhappy with the perceived preferential treatment the fullback and Cody Walker were receiving at the club. It's understood Burgess walked after refusing to back down on his assertions that standards at the club were not where they should be.
Rabbitohs coach says blame rests with him
Compounding matters for the Bunnies leading into Friday night's must-win game was the suspension to Mitchell for a needless elbow to the head of Newcastle's Tyson Frizell in the club's previous game. Speaking after the loss to the Roosters, Demetriou accepted that the off-field controversies were a "small part" of what went wrong for his side but said the blame for missing out on the finals ultimately rested with him.
"We're a pretty tight ship, we work our things out together and inside the four walls so it's disappointing that things are getting out," Demetriou said. "It's a small part of a lot of little things that have added to where we're at.
"It's going to be part of a deep review for sure. I've got to hold my hands up. I'm the head coach I have to make sure we're better and that we're not falling like we were.
"You can sit here and make excuses but it hurts, it's a tough lesson to learn." Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook put Friday night's loss largely down to "silly errors" that allowed the Roosters to keep the pressure on throughout the game.
When asked if the turmoil around the club had affected the team's performance, Cook told Channel Nine: "Not really, we were pretty close throughout the whole thing. There was some outside noise but as a playing group I could honestly say it didn't affect us."
Demetriou's side haven't been helped by the fact key forwards Tevita Tatola, Tom Burgess and Jai Arrow have rarely featured together in 2023. Mitchell has also been sidelined for large chunks of the season, having picked up a calf injury on the eve of State of Origin I that took more than two months for him to recover from. The Bunnies' record without their inspirational skipper does not make for pretty reading and his absence was undoubtedly felt on Friday night.
Historic choke from Souths savaged by fans
Demetriou will lose prop Hame Sele, fullback Blake Taaffe and back-rower Jed Cartwright next year but will welcome big-money signing Jack Wighton from Canberra. The Souths coach will surely go into next season as a man under immense pressure though, having overseen a historic choke in 2023 that has left many fans seething.
So glad this rubbish season has come to and end for Souths. As a fan not good enough. From 1st place to not even making finals. Winning 4 of their last 13 games. Enjoy the fishing trip lads. Hope you have a good hard look at yourselves in the off-season. Biggest choke ever 💩
— Will G (@willgots15) September 1, 2023
This Souths choke now becomes one of the three biggest I can recall.
Wests Tigers 2000
— LOST TACKLE COUNT 12345555 (@NrlConspiracies) September 1, 2023
Leading comp at one stage…They reckon the Dragons are chokers… I’m thinking Rabbitohs are the new kings of choke.. #chokeitohs
— 👻 Ghost of TedBullpitt 🇦🇺 (@TedBullpitt1) September 1, 2023
for all the jokes about the broncos being april premiers, souths were march premiers and couldnt even make the eight
— abby (@lowkeyabby) September 1, 2023
Souths are embarrassing.
— Pricey (@pricey_1981) September 1, 2023
Right result. Souths simply not a finals calibre team and get what they deserve after a putrid second half of the season. Another exit with our best player suspended. Zero enterprise, was there an offload all night? Need spark beyond Walker. Evolve or perish #NRLSouthsRoosters
— Phil Lutton (@phillutton78) September 1, 2023
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