Why Broncos assistant Demetriou has what it takes to be an NRL head coach
When Jason Demetriou was head hunted by the Brisbane Broncos in 2017, Wayne Bennett told his new assistant he wanted him to think and act like a head coach.
Now the 42-year-old, with a track record of success as a head coach, says he is ready to be one at the NRL level.
The future of head coaches at several NRL clubs, including the Broncos, is uncertain but Demetriou is open to stepping up anywhere at the highest level.
As a head coach he won an Intrust Super Cup and State Championship title with the Northern Pride in 2014 before taking on the Cowboys assistant coach role at North Queensland in 2015 under Paul Green in another title-winning year.
He then went to the St George Illawarra Dragons where he was head coach of the Illawarra Cutters in 2016 where he also won NSW Cup and State Championship titles.
"When I first came to the club Wayne said, 'I want you to think and act like a head coach and see yourself as one'," Demetriou told NRL.com.
"He said he wanted me to challenge what he did and that, while I might not always got my way, to think that way and have the same relationship with the playing group as well.
"That was a big call by Wayne and relaxed me in the environment I was in, to bring what I had done as a head coach at state league level to an NRL team.
"I'd like to think that over the last two years I have done that and am in a really good position to move into a head coaching role."
In his two seasons at the Northern Pride in 2013-14, Demetriou had win percentages of 71% and 85%. At the Cutters in 2016 it was 73%. He was the respective state league competition's coach of the year in 2013 and 2016.
He has been the attack coach at the Broncos in 2018 since round six, when Kevin Walters left, the side has scored more tries (61) than any other in the Telstra Premiership apart the Melbourne Storm (63).
Demetriou is now in a position where he wants to transition to an NRL coaching role and have full control over a club's program and not just influence what happens on the field.
"I've spent a lot of time coaching in the state leagues and achieved everything there is to achieve at that level and worked under some pretty good coaches and mentors in Paul Green, Paul McGregor and more importantly Wayne Bennett," he said.
"Paul is very good at making sure all the little boxes are ticked in planning and preparation for your training program. I learned a lot off him, and John Cartwright and Dave Furner, about how important it is to have the right people around you.
"With Wayne I have learned so much about the importance of the player relationship and the connection you have with individuals.
"My philosophy and the success I have had is off the back of a lot of what Wayne does himself, so that has given me a lot of confidence going forward knowing that he is similar to the way I am in terms of player relationships."
Bennett has spoken on several occasions this year of Demetriou as a quality man manager who gets on well with players and has the discipline to be a successful head coach.
He has a reputation as a coach who is across the technical and tactical side of the job as well as being able to sustain positive relationships with players.
"One of the things I do is make an effort with all the playing group and that is something Wayne is particularly good at, in that there is no hierarchy in terms of how much time he spends with the players," Demetriou said.
"After my time at the Cowboys I got the opportunity to go back to the Dragons and be a head coach with the Cutters and that was an important step for me as I still felt I had more learning to do as a head coach in a different environment with different players.
"As an assistant a lot of the decisions around who plays and who doesn't, and the accountability that goes with it, is not on you. As a head coach you have to wear that. In the NSW Cup and Queensland Cup, in particular, you are in charge of everything from recruitment to training programs, staff, player budgets… everything from top to bottom.
"You have to stand on your own two feet and learn the ins and outs of running a footy club and that is hugely important in getting the best out of your players and understanding the culture of a club and what makes it unique, which every club is."
Demetriou grew up in Campbelltown and Hurstville in Sydney and played his entire top-grade career in England. A five-eighth and centre, he played for a decade in the English Super League with three seasons at Widnes and seven at Wakefield, where he was captain for five years.
The clubs he has taken on as head coach have all won premierships, including his stint with Championship 1 side Keighley Cougars in 2011 where they were promoted to the Championship in 2012 and made the finals that year as well.
"Keighley was a good learning curve because we had no money and I had to build that footy team and coach players to be better than they were," Demetriou said.
"I had to mow the grass and mark the field and take on things myself so I could invest the money I saved the club back in the playing group."