An internal review at South Sydney could result in massive changes at Redfern including moving Latrell Mitchell out of the fullback position – while rumours continue to swirl that Sam Burgess could return to coach the Bunnies.
Mitchell is firmly under the pump at Souths following an injury-disrupted year that saw the son of NRL legend Clive Churchill label him a ‘cancer’ on the team in a message to club chairman Nick Pappas.
The representative star has become the face of Souths annus horribilis that saw the Bunnies crash from being raging competition favourites to missing the finals altogether.
It could result in Mitchell being dumped from the fullback position for incoming superstar Jack Wighton as Souths conduct a review on every element of the football department.
Meanwhile, Souths have been forced to hose down speculation that a trade deal could see Souths coach Jason Demetriou go to the Super League, and Burgess stay in Australia.
Souths officials told the Sydney Morning Herald they weren’t trying to get rid of Demetriou after an official at Warrington, where Burgess will take over as head coach, said the club had been told a high-ranking Bunnies staffer wanted the Englishman to consider returning as head coach.
Burgess declined to comment.
Mitchell had another injury-disrupted season and came under fire for his efforts when he returned to play for the Bunnies
Mitchell and Jack Wighton wrestle at New South Wales Blues training. They will be teammates in 2024 and Wighton will reportedly be considered for the fullback role
After leading the competition at the conclusion of round 11, Souths spectacularly flamed out with a 26-12 loss to bitter rivals Sydney Roosters in the final round consigning them to ninth place on the NRL ladder.
As the pressure intensified, internal rifts became public knowledge with Burgess walking out on his job as assistant coach of the club he famously won a premiership with in 2014.
Burgess had clashed with Jason Demetriou, accusing the coach of giving Mitchell and star playmaker Cody Walker preferential treatment.
Other cracks were leaked as well, with reports of Walker storming out of a training session and Cam Murray allegedly snapping at Mitchell during a video session.
A Souths official told the publication that Demetriou will be asked to consider moving Mitchell out of fullback, which could cause further rifts within the club, as the coach believes he can still unlock his star in the No.1 jersey.
Phil Gould believes the decision on where Mitchell plays should be made by Jason Demetriou and not other influences
Paul Gallen defended Mitchell and said he can do things on the footy field no other player is capable of
Former New South Wales captain Paul Gallen gave an impassioned defence of Mitchell on Channel Nine’s 100% Footy, saying he had an x-factor that elevated him over all other players.
‘I don’t understand where this talk about Latrell at fullback has come from. Latrell as a fullback has never changed the way he plays, he’s always been able to do things other people just can’t do on the football field, we know that,’ he said.
‘He’s never been an effort player, he’s never been the player backing up the middle, he’s never been the player making 20 runs a game for 200 metres, he’s never been that Dylan Edwards, James Tedesco type player.
He’s always just had that x-factor, and can do things other players can’t do
‘He’s always just had that x-factor, and can do things other players can’t do.’
Bulldogs boss and former New South Wales coach Phil Gould said the decision on where to play should rest solely on the shoulders of Demetriou.
‘I don’t think it’s anyone’s business bar the coach, I don’t know who in the club would be questioning where the coach plays him or why suddenly after this game [against the Roosters],’ he said.
‘I mean, they lost on the weekend because Latrell didn’t play, had he played it could’ve been a very different story. But arguing right now about where Latrell plays next year I don’t think is a major part of the review whatsoever.
‘Certainly there are other factors there that a far more important for South Sydney and why it fell away the way it did, without questioning where Latrell plays next year. That’s not the solution to their issues.’
South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou signed a massive three-year deal this season but that could come under review if the results don’t follow
Burgess worked as an assistant coach at Souths this season before he clashed with Demetriou over the treatment of Mitchell and Cody Walker
Burgess and fiancé Lucy Graham are expecting their first child together which played a role in the former Souths enforcer wanting to return to England
Demetriou will be under enormous pressure in 2024 with reports that Burgess is being considered for the head coaching role n the future.
Burgess has committed to English Super League side Warrington for the 2024 season, but could be an option for 2025 if Souths can’t turn their fortunes around.
A Warrington official told the Sydney Morning Herald that a senior Souths official had already floated the idea of a swap deal, sending Demetriou to the UK with Burgess to return to the Rabbitohs.
Demetriou signed a three-year extension midway through the 2023 season on a huge $2.5million deal, but that deal will come under review if he can’t get results next season.
Burgess has replaced former Warrington coach Daryl Powell after the club’s lean run of form this year.
He does not currently have the coaching credentials for that level, but Super League made an exemption to allow him to take the post at Warrington.
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