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Demetriou’s advice to Benji on coaching succession plans

If Benji Marshall was looking for a guideline on how to approach the Wests Tigers’ succession planning, he would do well to give his old mate from the Bunnies a call.

Souths coach Jason Demetriou started the 2022 season in a similar place to where Marshall will be when he moves to the top job at the Wests Tigers in 2025.

Apprenticeship under a veteran coaching legend? Check. Long lead in to taking over in the big chair? Check. Transition from assistant to one of the hottest seats in the NRL? Check, check and double check.

This will be Demetriou’s 20th game as head coach, having served a long apprenticeship at Souths under Wayne Bennett, so it seemed an appropriate time to ask him what his advice might be for his former player on what to expect when he takes over at the Tigers.

“Get ready,” said Demetriou. “It’s what you think it is and a helluva lot more. I hope that Benji gets the people around him that he needs. He’s a great mind, a great communicator and he’s got a great rapport with people.

“I’m sure he’ll learn and do a great job. It’s important that everyone around him is there for the right reasons and they’re patient as well.

“I can only speak from my experience  Coming in and having that time to get to know the players and understand the club and the cap, having a voice in the recruitment over the last 18 months has made life a lot easier for me to transition.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 08: Rabbitohs head coach Jason Demetriou looks on during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL Training Session at Redfern Oval on March 08, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jason Demetriou. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“I was coming into a team that was well built and had some pretty good players has made life easier. I’m not sure how that works if you’re taking over a team in two years and succession planning when the team isn’t going well – I think that’s a different dynamic.

“Forecasting and the cap is huge. It’s what makes or breaks teams, in my opinion.

“You’ve got to have the next two or three years in the back of your mind, otherwise you end up with backended contracts and players you can’t afford to keep that you want to keep.

“It’s a balancing act. I’m no expert, I’m learning all the time, but it’s something that you’ve got to do.”

Benji Marshall of the Rabbitohs in action

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Demetriou did not enjoy the same stellar playing career as Benji – though tell that to Wakefield fans, where he is a club legend, or even this here writer, who remembers his time at Rochdale Hornets – but he still entered as an assistant and has endured an at times shaky start to life in the head coaching ranks.

Souths suffered massively at the start of the year as they failed to find their best form, with injuries to crucial players – notably Latrell Mitchell and Cameron Murray – and issues with handling errors holding them back.

Demetriou has also had to navigate losing his main leader, Adam Reynolds, and one of his main culture leaders, Marshall himself, while integrating a rookie halfback in Lachlan Ilias and tweaking his team’s playing style.

Now, with just six rounds to play, Souths find themselves well in contention for finals and on a run that has seen them win five of their last six.

With Melbourne Storm set to visit on Saturday night, the Bunnies find themselves on 10 wins, two short of the 12 that should seal a spot in the post-season.

Souths have a shocking history against the Storm: Melbourne are 31-5 all time and are currently on a seven-game winning streak against the Bunnies stretching back to August 2018.

Even though Melbourne have lost their last three and are without star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen for the remainder of the year, they remain slight favourites for the clash at Homebush on Saturday evening.

“I’m over it,” said Demetriou of the historical record. “I’m over giving them two points every time we play them. Tomorrow night we’ve got to go there and do whatever it takes.

“I don’t care (about the Storm’s poor form). I’m not interested. We’ve got a job to do, we need to play our way and get the two points.”

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