Pressure on as Demetriou storms out of press conference

Scott Bailey |

Under-fire Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou has stormed out of a pre-match press conference.
Under-fire Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou has stormed out of a pre-match press conference.

Jason Demetriou’s future as South Sydney coach appears ever bleaker after storming out of a press conference that lasted just 27 seconds and included 73 words in answers.

Fighting to keep his job ahead of Saturday’s clash with Cronulla, Demetriou took just four questions during his weekly press conference before abruptly walking off.

Rabbitohs officials confirmed afterwards they were not aware of any pre-planned boycott from Demetriou, who offered no explanation for his hasty exit.

With pressure building on his job following last season’s capitulation and this year’s poor start, Demetriou has been largely stoic in defence of his team and his position.

But Friday brought the first public sign of the 48-year-old succumbing to the pressure.

Demetriou offered just 73 words and did not answer any of the four questions directly, before heading straight back inside the club’s Maroubra base.

Those in attendance included Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly, who has had to deny reports in recent days that Mal Meninga is an option to replace Demetriou.

That appointment would require the approval of the ARL Commission, given Meninga is currently Australia’s coach.

Meninga himself is famous for his own short interview in 2001, when he briefly entered politics before walking out on a radio interview after 28 seconds.

But Demetriou’s effort in front of the cameras even fell one second shy of that on Friday, with the Souths coach clearly feeling the heat.

Jason Demetriou.
Demetriou had put on a brave face despite the pressure mounting at Souths … until Friday. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

When asked how he was, given the external talk around his job, Demetriou largely ignored the question. 

“We’ve had a great week at training. The energy through the week has been outstanding,” he said.

Asked how he had blocked out the talk, Demetriou was defiant. 

“There are new blokes coming in. Jye Gray, Ty Munro and Davvy Moale’s back. I’m excited by the energy they’ve brought,” he said.

When asked how he personally had dealt with the pressure, Demetriou again deflected. 

“I’m really excited about the performance. I can’t wait,” he said.

“The energy is through the roof. I’m looking forward to it.”

Asked finally whether he felt he was coaching for his job, Demetriou offered a brief answer before walking off.

“I believe I’m coaching for a great performance this week, and that’s what we’re going to get,” he said.

Mal Meninga.
Australia coach Mal Meninga has emerged as the favourite to take over at Souths. (Mike Egerton/AAP PHOTOS)

Demetriou’s press conference was shorter than Darius Boyd’s infamous 42-second effort in 2009 and Wayne Bennett’s 80 seconds of answers after a match in 2020.

Only Ricky Stuart’s refusal to answer questions in a 24-second sitting after a Canberra defeat in 2015 rivals it for brevity.

The Rabbitohs coach’s quick exit meant he was not asked about NSW State of Origin hooker Damien Cook’s axing.

Nor was there any mention of the three-match ban handed down to Latrell Mitchell, after the superstar fullback’s dramatic start to the year.

Cody Walker’s poor form was also not raised, with the five-eighth the only remaining member of the Rabbitohs’ round-one spine.

There was also only the scant reference to Gray, who debuts at age 20 at fullback on Saturday night.

Latrell Mitchell.
A three-match ban for Latrell Mitchell has not helped the Rabbitohs’ shaky start to 2024. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)

Demetriou has had success everywhere he has coached previously, and was Bennett’s recommendation to take over Souths in 2022.

But pressure has been mounting since late last year, when the club suffered the worst capitulation in NRL history amid off-field turmoil.

The last-placed Rabbitohs have now won just five of their past 20 matches, after going from top of the ladder after round 11 in 2023 to missing the finals.

Beyond Meninga, Bennett and assistant Ben Hornby would be among other options to take over if Demetriou does not survive.

AAP