Jason Demetriou has revealed he didn't even know who Rodney Churchill was when he was first informed of the NRL Immortal's son's comments about Latrell Mitchell. Churchill, the son of South Sydney legend Clive, has apologised after labelling Mitchell a "cancer on the club" and an "embarrassment to the No.1 jersey" in text messages that recently came to light.
South Sydney players will boycott the Clive Churchill medal in the foreseeable future, while the NRL is reviewing Rodney's role as presenter of the prestigious award for player of the match in the grand final. Speaking on Thursday, Souths coach Demetriou labelled Churchill's comments 'disrespectful', but also admitted he didn't even know who he was.
"(My reaction) first of all was, 'who?' I didn't know who he was," Demetriou said. Churchill also labelled Mitchell an "impostor" and said the fullback was "a complete myth who has the Aboriginal cause paramount and South Sydney second".
He allegedly sent the text to Souths chairman Nick Pappas after the Rabbitohs' loss to Parramatta in Indigenous Round in May. The release of the message came after a turbulent week when Souths legend Sam Burgess quit as an assistant to Demetriou after disagreements with the head coach over a perceived preferential treatment of Mitchell and Cody Walker.
Souths are facing a do-or-die clash with the Roosters on Friday night in a game that could decide who makes the finals and who misses out. If they don't make the top eight, the Rabbitohs would make unwanted history as the only team in the NRL era to lead the competition after round 11 and miss out.
"When it's alleged they were sent was in round 12, we were at 75 per cent (win rate) and joint top of the table," Demetriou said. "Latrell was a huge part of that and then he missed the next three months (with a calf injury). To throw those words at him are pretty disrespectful to him, his culture and most importantly our club."
Trent Robinson addresses ugly dramas at South Sydney
Roosters coach Trent Robinson also spoke about the situation on Thursday. "I have some empathy for what's happened," he admitted. "I don't know their coach very well, I've said 'hello' a couple of times. It hasn't looked like (a scenario) you want as a head coach. You're a coach and you love your players and when that gets questioned, that's tough."
Demetriou said the increased scrutiny had actually brought the Bunnies closer together for what is expected to be a fiery affair with their arch-rivals. The Rabbitohs have won four straight against the Roosters at Accor Stadium, who have been rocked by by the loss of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (suspension) and Joey Manu (hamstring injury).
"I think it (the last week) has obviously sharpened our resolve a little bit," Demetriou said. "We want to get out there and play tough and aggressive as we normally do.
"We don't want to be giving away penalties or having blokes in the bin for high shots or anything like that. We've got to be disciplined with how we approach it."
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