Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou is prepared to be patient and hopes his side can follow his lead on the field in future to revive the 2021 grand finalists’ attacking mojo.
The rookie NRL coach was both frustrated and buoyant after Souths’ winless run at AAMI Park continued on Thursday night as his side squandered several opportunities inside Storm’s 20m zone, but still did enough to force a Golden Point classic.
The Rabbitohs have built a reputation as possessing one of the most potent attacks in the NRL in recent seasons, but the left-edge pairing of Alex Johnston and Jaxson Paulo made seven errors between them in the 15-14 loss.
Maestro Cody Walker had three of his own in another "clunky" performance as an undermanned Storm side did just enough to reduce Souths to low-percentage bat-ons and misdirected passes — shutting down the visitors but for a frantic final minutes.
Demetriou believed all the signs were there to reignite the juggernaut, which finally came to life when ‘AJ’ crashed over in the 68th minute to start the Rabbits’ epic comeback.
“To be fair there were just probably three or four tries where we just didn’t nail the last pass. It’s not how we were playing or the shapes we were using, it’s just that last pass execution and I think the three tries we scored in the second half will give us some confidence going into next week,” he said.
“I think it’s about being more patient and going after points with a bit more power and playing shorter rather than trying to go around teams.
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“Melbourne are one of the best defensive teams in the comp and that’s what they do, they get up in your face and force errors and make it hard to score inside their 10m zone, so I thought we were probably chasing it a bit too much and I thought we did the same last week.”
Newly introduced players to the attacking structure are already coming under scrutiny, with No.7 Lachlan Ilias working his way into first grade and Jaxson Paulo transitioning to left centre in a bid to replace the departed Dane Gagai.
Demetriou eventually swapped right winger Taane Milne with 22-year-old Paulo, who scored to get Souths within a converted try, in the final 20 minutes.
Ilias became more involved and organised when the game was there for the taking, giving Demetriou confidence the NRL rookie would emerge after being thrown into the deep end.
“I thought he was better in the second half and he came up with some good plays and dug into the line really well which created two tries on the right-hand side,” he said.
“While there’s things for him to work on, I’m real comfortable with his temperament. I thought overall he kicked really well and it’s a work in progress.
“It’s my job and the coaches’ jobs to keep working with Lachie and he’s long-term, he’s going nowhere and he’ll be the future of the club, no doubt about that.”
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