The Rabbitohs are “up for a great fight” if they want to make it to the finals – but coach Jason Demetriou is “not panicked at all”.
South Sydney has struggled with consistency all season, but especially since the loss of star duo Latrell Mitchell and Cameron Murray to injury.
They have lost three of their last five games, including last weekend against an exhausted Raiders outfit.
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NRL 360 presenter Braith Anasta acknowledged that the Bunnies “have some issues” and admitted they “need to improve quickly”.
News Corp journalist Paul Kent believes the Rabbitohs’ “big problem” is the fact that they haven’t adapted their attack while Mitchell is on the sidelines.
“The big problem with Souths is they still play like Latrell Mitchell is still on the team,” he said.
“He’s such an unorthodox threat, he’s bringing things into his running game that very few players have, so it’s almost a luxury.
“You can tell Cody is just looking for him and with all due respect to Blake Taaffe, he’s just not Latrell.
“There’s a big difference between throwing the ball at Taaffe than throwing it at Latrell and it’s simple things like that – they’re just not the threat they are with Latrell on the side.”
However, Paul Crawley believes injuries are no excuse and put the burner on five-eighth Cody Walker, who has had it hot and cold this season.
“They’re missing players, but they played the Raiders over the weekend and the Raiders are missing some too and the Raiders looked like world champions against Souths,” Crawley told NRL 360.
“Especially the energy level in Souths in the first half – that was the concern with Cody – he looks like a guy who plays under so much pressure and he can’t handle it. He doesn’t look happy, he’s not the player he was last year.
“The other thing is… If you look at the seven teams above them on the ladder from what I’ve seen this year, I don’t think any of those seven teams will drop out, so Souths hopes to make it to the finals will if they can hold the Raiders, Manly, and the Dragons, they’re going to be (drive through) if they can hold the Raiders, Manly, and the Dragons. They’re in for a hell of a fight.”
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It comes after Demetriou said: News Corp that the number of injuries was “not ideal”, but that there is “a little light at the end of the tunnel” with players set to return in the coming weeks.
“We can only play the cards we have been dealt and unfortunately we are losing important players,” said Demetriou.
“Our playmakers have been under more pressure than most because of the guys we missed in the middle third.”
Demetriou is about halfway through his first season as NRL head coach after taking the reins from Wayne Bennett.
Despite the bumpy start to the year, Demetriou will not reach the championship coach and remains “confident” that the season will get back on track.
“No. I’ve got pretty good staff in and around the place and I’ll call Wayne if I need to, but Wayne isn’t going to give me bodies back,” he said when asked if he’d been in contact with Bennett.
“We were in the same position around this time of year and we got two 50-pointers in hiding with similar guys who were missing from the team.
“We have to brawl. I’m not panicking at all. I know the quality of the team we have in the dressing room and I’m excited to have them all back together.
“I am convinced that we will certainly gain some momentum in our second half of the season.”
Demetriou also acknowledged that there is room for Walker to improve, but also reiterated that he is “not panicking” about the situation.
“There are parts of his game he can improve on, but there’s no doubt as a senior player, he feels it more than most and it’s because he cares about him, he wants us to get better,” he said.
“Like I said, I’m not panicking.
“We will get the consistency and some of the results we want. We knew the start of the season would be challenging with the players we transferred, but adding injuries and stuff to key players has made it a bit more challenging.”
News Corp journalist Dave Riccio praised Demetriou’s temperament.
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“He recognizes the condition they are in, but he is also very calm about it and fully believes in a way out… But they do need bodies,” Riccio told NRL 360.
The good news is that Murray has a chance this week to return after being included in the expanded roster for Saturday’s game against the Tigers, while Mitchell is scheduled to return in Round 14.
Riccio stressed that while the last month or so has been disappointing for the Rabbitohs, they were aiming for two big games.
“We quickly forget that earlier this year this South Sydney team almost beat the Storm and they beat the Roosters,” he said.
Crawley wasn’t so positive, though, and instead delivered a reality check.
“I don’t think we’ll soon forget,” he said.
“We are facing the reality that the season is going to end and let’s face it if you don’t make the top four you don’t win the league. That’s how it works.”
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