Rabbitohs respond to 'cruel' Jason Demetriou backlash amid telling Wayne Bennett call

Bennett has emerged as the favourite to take over as Souths coach after the sacking of Jason Demetriou.

Souths CEO Blake Solly has brushed off criticism around the NRL club's treatment of Jason Demetriou, as the fallout over Tuesday's axing of the Rabbitohs coach intensifies. The South Sydney board confirmed on Tuesday night that Demetriou had been sacked effective immediately, after two board meetings earlier that day and weeks of speculation around the embattled coach.

Former Cronulla star Wade Graham slammed the Rabbitohs after news of Demetriou's axing was circulated through the media, before the club had confirmed it. And Demetriou's agent Chris Orr also hit out at the club over the nature of the protracted saga that led to his eventual sacking, claiming it was “extremely cruel” on the former head coach.

Pictured left to right is NRL coach Wayne Bennett, Latrell Mitchell and former Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.
Wayne Bennett has emerged as the favourite to take over as Rabbitohs coach in 2025 after the NRL club sacked Jason Demetriou. Pic: Getty

“To be honest, it wasn’t fair to have your head coach waiting around all day just to be axed,” Orr told The Daily Telegraph. “Coaches are human beings with families and I thought South Sydney’s process was extremely cruel. I feel they got it wrong.” Orr's comments come after Demetriou was forced to answer questions from reporters after South Sydney training on Tuesday, hours before he was eventually sacked as a result of the club's board meetings that day.

But Solly denied his club was in the wrong and said the board had given Demetriou "every single opportunity" to prove he was the right man for the job. Ultimately, the fact Demetriou's side have won just five games in their last 21 since leading the NRL competition midway through 2023, sealed the coach's fate. And Solly refuted suggestions the coach was treated unfairly.

“I don’t agree... Jason spent three years here as an assistant coach, was appointed to succeed Wayne very early on," the Souths CEO said. “The club gave Jason every single opportunity to have success and for half of that period here we did, but results over the last 12 months haven’t been good enough for a club of our stature.

“And whilst, this is no criticism of Jason and how hard he works, but the last 20 games speak for themselves. For his agent to say that he has been treated poorly in the context of a year’s worth of patience and support is unfair. I’m not sure Jason would share that view.”

Pictured on the left is former Souths NRL coach Jason Demetriou.
Jason Demetriou was sacked by the Rabbitohs on Tuesday night after a run of poor form in the NRL. Pic: Getty

The Rabbitohs are currently bottom of the ladder after just one win in six games and were smashed 54-20 by the Melbourne Storm on Anzac Day. That proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Demetriou and his coaching future. Rabbitohs assistant Ben Hornby will take over as interim coach for the rest of the season but Solly has already confirmed reports that master coach Wayne Bennett is a frontrunner to take over in 2025.

Bennett is in his final year as Dolphins coach and has been heavily linked with a return to the club he guided to the 2021 grand final. And Solly admitted that while the club has not yet approached the master mentor, he's very much at the top of their list for coaching candidates.


“Wayne is one of the coaches we will talk to,” Solly said on Wednesday. “Wayne had great success, he left the club on very good terms. We will speak to Wayne and if he’s available and interested certainly we'll progress that. I think we want someone who fits this fine group and can get the best out of them. It’s a unique client group having worked with them for a long period of time.

“And we want I think a coach that can get them to form their best consistently and we want I think a coach that understands the values and heritage and history of this club. We’ve got great skills, great athleticism and some great personalities and every head coach has to get the best out of them whether it’s Ivan Cleary what he does at Penrith over a long period of time, Wayne, his track record with a number of clubs. The best coaches always get the best out of their playing group.”

Bennett is a serial winner and widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches the NRL has seen. And Solly thinks the 74-year-old has unfinished business at the club, having guided the Bunnies to two preliminary finals and losing to Penrith in the 2021 grand final. “I do know Wayne likes success, I know he wants to win premierships and I know he loves the values of the club and what we stand for,” Solly said.

“I think he’s made that pretty clear in his time here and since then about his affection for the club, the ownership, the board, the management team. We’ll certainly be speaking to Wayne because he left the place in very good shape when he left and he was great while he was here... he was a pleasure to work with.”

with AAP