Finals not the priority for Souths under Hornby

Jasper Bruce |

Ben Hornby will be calling the shots for Souths against the Panthers on Thursday.
Ben Hornby will be calling the shots for Souths against the Panthers on Thursday.

Chief executive Blake Solly accepts South Sydney may miss the top eight this season, with history stacked against Ben Hornby in the fight to save the Rabbitohs’ faltering campaign.

Jason Demetriou’s axing on Tuesday has paved the way for St George Illawarra legend and long-time Souths assistant Hornby to take charge, commencing with Thursday’s clash against reigning premiers Penrith.

The Rabbitohs had considered appointing defence coach and ex-Canberra boss David Furner to the interim position but Hornby’s four-and-a-half years experience with the Rabbitohs won him the job.

Furner only joined the staff two weeks ago and will continue to assist Hornby.

The Rabbitohs have named Wayne Bennett their first-choice coaching target for 2025, with Solly virtually ruling Hornby out of contention by insisting the club was after an experienced mentor.

Blake Solly
Blake Solly wants an experienced coach to replace Jason Demetriou on a fulltime basis. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

But Solly was keen to outline plans for Hornby when he approached the Dragons’ 2010 premiership captain with the current job offer on Tuesday night.

“There’s two or three really clear expectations for Ben,” Solly said.

“We want to see improvement in terms of results and performances on the field.

“We want to give Ben and the coaching staff the time to develop some of our younger players who we’re starting to see come through.

“Hopefully guys like Jye (Gray), Tyrone (Munro) when he comes back from injury, and Peter (Mamouzelos) can play a lot more NRL football this year.

“We want Ben and the coaching staff and the players to hold themselves and carry themselves in a way that represents our club in the best possible way.”

Management have opted against setting Hornby the lofty task of inspiring a finals berth; the Rabbitohs won only one of their first seven games this year and sit last on the ladder.

Moreover, interim coaches have historically struggled to lead their team to the play-offs.

In the NRL era, a coach has been installed in response to a mid-season departure on 41 occasions, but only three of those caretaker bosses have led their side to the finals.

Even then, none of those three faced as lofty a task as Hornby; Penrith were already running fourth on the ladder when Cameron Ciraldo replaced Anthony Griffin late in 2018.

When Rick Stone took charge from Brian Smith at Newcastle in late 2009, the Knights were in ninth spot.

“We certainly think we can make something of the season, whether or not it results in a top-eight berth, I’m not sure,” Solly said.

“But I know the character of this team, I know what they’re like and they’ll be up for the challenge.

“If we can get our players back on the field sooner rather than later, I think most teams will be concerned about playing us.

“If we can get to the top eight, that’d be wonderful, but really it’s about improvement over the next few weeks.”

NRL ERA INTERIM COACHES WHO LED THEIR SIDE TO THE FINALS:

Cameron Ciraldo – Penrith (6th place, 2018)

Rick Stone – Newcastle (7th place, 2009)

Jason Taylor – Parramatta (8th place, 2006)

AAP