In the wake of a strikingly disappointing 26-12 loss to the Roosters that saw the Rabbitohs formally ousted from finals contention, a crestfallen Jason Demetriou expressed the team’s firm resolve to utilise this setback as fuel to bounce back next season.
Shockingly, the Rabbitohs have become the first NRL team to top the league after 11 rounds but fail to make it into the top eight, registering a mere four wins in their final 13 games as a sequence of events both on and off the pitch saw their season go downhill.
The defeat on Friday night marked the climax of a distressing two weeks for the club, during which time they parted ways with longtime stalwart Sam Burgess amid allegations that he demonstrated favoritism towards Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker in his role as assistant coach.
Further controversy arose when a private text message from Rod Churchill to club chairman Nick Pappas was leaked to the media, in which Churchill targeted a scathing critique towards Mitchell, labelling him a “cancer” on the club’s reputation and hurling a series of insulting remarks.
Compounding the situation, that week’s game was missed by Mitchell, who was serving a suspension, while substitute fullback Blake Taaffe was taken out early due to a head injury. Mitchell did, however, offer his support from the stands following a challenging few weeks.
“This is unfamiliar territory for us; we’ve prided ourselves on running a tight ship over the past few years,” Demetriou expressed his discontent. Grievances and accusations should be addressed internally within the club, and it’s displeasing when such matters are publicised or misrepresented.”
Despite an impressive track record featuring five consecutive preliminary finals and a highly skilled roster, the Rabbitohs‘ hopes of taking the title have been quashed. An investigation will need to be launched to pinpoint where things went wrong as their offensive and defensive strategies during the Origin period lacked consistency and showed no signs of recovery since.
Declaring his readiness to assert full responsibility for the team’s downfall, Demetriou admitted, “I don’t deny it’s a tough blow. That midpoint, especially post-Origin, was a challenging time and we didn’t manage it well. It’s a harsh but necessary lesson that I’ll take on board.”
Captain Cam Murray exhibited exemplary effort and contributed one of the two tries in Friday’s match, but was visibly distraught following a season that started with such potential.
“It’s challenging to identify where things fell apart,” said Murray. He concluded, “We’ll delve into our performance review and pinpoint areas for improvement, using this bitter experience as a catalyst to ensure we don’t endure this feeling again.”