Souths move on after week from hell

NRL Rd 9 - Rabbitohs v Panthers
The emotional toll of the past few weeks was on display on Thursday as the Rabbitohs crashed to another defeat to stay anchored to the foot of the table. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Souths skipper Cameron Murray concedes a tumultuous few weeks off the field probably affected the players even if they tried to avoid the outside noise, but he insists the looming return of Wayne Bennett as coach won’t be a distraction as they try to fight their way off the bottom of the ladder.

The Bunnies remain last following their 42-12 loss to Penrith on Thursday night, which came just 48 hours after Jason Demetriou was sacked as coach.

It ends a testing month for the club that has dealt with speculation about their coach, a massive injury list as well as Latrell Mitchell’s three-game ban, which is now over.

South Sydney Rabbitohs Training Session
Jason Demetriou was sacked on Tuesday night after a disastrous 12 months. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

“It’s not ideal circumstances, so I’m not going to sit here and say it was easy,” Murray said, sitting next to interim coach Ben Hornby after they blew a 12-0 lead against the premiers.

“In saying that, it probably wasn’t as hard as everyone thinks it was.

“At the end of the day, we’re footy players and it’s about the men in the change room and us turning up as a group and trying to go out there and be good teammates and make good memories out there.

“We’re footy players and this is what we love to do. What happens on the outside and what we can’t control is irrelevant for us. The more time we spend worrying about that, the more time it takes away from what we can actually control.

“It’s been a tough week, but that’s footy and we’re going to move on.”

The players had to hear all the rumours and reports in the media, and as much as they tried to dodge it, they couldn’t avoid all the chat about their former coach that would have weighed them down and added more pressure to an already tense environment.

All signs point to a Wayne Bennett reunion at South Sydney in 2025. Picture: NRL Photos
All signs point to a Wayne Bennett reunion at South Sydney in 2025. Picture: NRL Photos

“In a way, probably (it is easier to move on),” Murray said.

“We tried to not let the external pressure affect us, but it’s probably in the back of our minds. Everyone’s on socials so everyone’s scrolling and seeing what’s going on there.”

The attention now turns to whether Bennett will come back in 2025 once his deal with the Dolphins expires.

The Rabbitohs have made it clear they want him back, and Bennett has already indicated that he’s open to a second stint with Souths.

The master coach reached out to Hornby before his first game in charge but could well take over from him later this year.

“Me and Wayne talk regularly so I’ll ask for his advice like anyone would,” Hornby said.

“(His message before the game) was for me to be me. That’s what Wayne says nearly every time. Just be you because you can’t try to be someone you’re not.”

Latrell Mitchell will return at fullback next week against the Dragons. Picture: NRL Photos
Latrell Mitchell will return at fullback next week against the Dragons. Picture: NRL Photos

That simple message could be delivered to Mitchell in the coming days as the superstar prepares to return at fullback, with Hornby ruling out any possible switch to centre.

That would have been on the cards had Jye Gray (ankle) not come off on Thursday night, with Mitchell keen to make up for his brain snap against the Warriors.

“He’s been carving up at training,” Murray said.

“Latrell plays his best when he keeps it simple in his head. We’re not expecting him to come in and solve all our problems and make us into the in-form team of the NRL, but we want him to come in and be him.

“He’s got a presence about him and he’ll definitely come in and boost our moods and confidence a bit.”