South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has smacked down claims he is too soft on Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, as the club deals with the fallout of Sam Burgess' shock departure. Rabbitohs assistant coaches Burgess and John Morris had reportedly become fed-up with Demetriou's treatment of Mitchell and Walker, believing they aren't being held to the same standards as their teammates.
Burgess departed the club on Wednesday just two weeks out from the NRL finals, although Souths claimed the club legend wants to focus on the impending birth of his child and his move to Warrington next year. Mitchell has copped widespread criticism for his performances in recent weeks, particularly in light of the fact he was spotted 'shot-gunning' a beer on-stage at a Luke Combs concert last Wednesday night.
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Mitchell's mid-week drinking reportedly raised eyebrows at Souths and was used as ammunition by his critics. But according to Demetriou, his fullback didn't do anything wrong.
South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell has been filmed 'shotgunning' a beer with popular country music singer Luke Combs at his Sydney concert.
The NRL star managed to find his way onto the Qudos Bank Arena stage alongside UFC star Tai "Bam Bam" Tuvisa. #9News pic.twitter.com/7FcTbMz5wd
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) August 18, 2023
"Half the NRL was probably at the Luke Combs concert," Demetriou retorted on Wednesday. "He slugged a few shots of beer and threw the can in the air, but he was the first bloke in the building on Thursday morning - he trained to house down. He drives the standards inside these four walls."
Demetriou hit back at claims Mitchell and Walker are running the club and not being held to account. "Latrell is a big presence as Sam (Burgess) was when he was playing, but to say that he (Mitchell) is dominating the club ... he's a part of the leadership team," said Demetriou, who fronted the media alongside chief executive Blake Solly.
"Cameron Murray is our captain and does a fantastic job as a leader in this club. Is he (Mitchell) dominating the club? No, it's a comment that's ridiculous. He was out for three months, who was dominating the club then?
"One minute, (everyone) was saying we're too soft on him and, and they're running the club. And the next minute, it's, I'm falling out with everyone. So which one is it?"
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Souths are in danger or suffering an embarrassing finals miss unless they beat the Roosters in Round 27 after their bye this week. Mitchell will miss the game against the Roosters after a 'brain snap' saw him elbow Tyson Frizell late in Souths' loss to Newcastle.
"It's what people buy tickets for, to see. I put bums on seats and that's just the game that everyone wants to come and watch," Mitchell told Nine News on Tuesday. "I'm disappointed. Not only because (I'm missing) the game but also in myself.
"I've worked really hard to get this stuff out of my game - them brain snaps. I've tried to mature a lot and I haven't had an incident since '21 - that incident with Joey Manu. So I've worked really hard to getting back to playing footy and enjoying it and getting that stuff out of it, the grubby stuff."
Mitchell has struggled to recapture his best form after only recently returning from a calf injury he suffered in Round 12. He was called out by Braith Anasta on NRL 360 over damning footage of him not showing up for his teammates on a number of occasions against the Knights.
"Tell me another fullback in the game who stands still like that and doesn’t support up the middle of the ruck,” Anasta said. “Tell me whatever you want to tell me and he is not solely to blame, but he is the leader at that club. He is the barometer and once he starts making better decisions and wears his heart on his sleeve (they will get better).”
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