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How Lachlan Ilias responded from embarrassing incident to spearhead Souths’ top four charge




It’s been a pretty straight line for South Sydney since their nightmare Thursday night in the Wollongong rain on June 16th.

That night, they found themselves 32-0 down at the break, and nobody suffered more than rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias, who was hooked midway through the first half debacle.

Since that night, the Bunnies have gone 4-0, averaging 32.5 points per game in the process. They’ve also bounced from barely clinging onto the top eight to genuine top four contenders, beating Parramatta, Canterbury, Newcastle and Melbourne on the way.

The obvious addition to the squad has been star fullback Latrell Mitchell, who returned against the Eels, but missed in the conversation has been Ilias, who has responded to being hooked by turning in his best performances in a Souths jersey.

The halfback said that coach Jason Demetriou had sat down with him after the Dragons incident and talked through his reasoning, which inspired the youngster to take his game to the next level.

“It was about resetting,” he told The Roar. “At the time, he thought it was the right decision and I back him. We’ve put that behind us now. He’s the coach and he made that decision at the time.

“We had a chat about, reset, restarted and now I’m confident and trying to get better week to week.

“It’s nothing you plan for or want to happen in your first year, but it happened and it’s all about how you respond to it. I thought I responded well. We’ve had a couple of good wins against Parra, the Dogs and Melbourne.

“We’ve responded well as a team and we’re back on the winning train.”

Mitchell’s presence makes the world of difference to the Bunnies, and to Ilias. When Latrell was injured, his role was taken by another rookie – Blake Taaffe – and latterly Kodi Nikorima, a part-time fullback at best, which heaped pressure on Ilias and his halves partner, Cody Walker.

With the extra threat coming from the back, Souths now seem to play a little further from the defensive line, which in turn has drastically reduced their error rate, which had been the worst in the NRL.

“We had the worst completion rate in the comp early in the year,” said Ilias. “We pride ourselves on completing the ball and finishing in their corners so we can back our defence. That’s how we get spots in attack to use our shape.

“A couple of times against the Storm, we made mistakes on the first tackle, but when we were patient we scored. That was the messaging: if we get repeats, be patient, keep ticking over and we’ll get simple tries.”

The kicking appears to have changed drastically. Up until recent weeks, Walker did almost half of the kicking duties, but last week against the Storm, Ilias took on almost all the responsibility with the boot.

“I worry about doing my job,” he said. “I did my job well, kicked to the corners and let the boys back our defence. We can attack off that. I kicked well which gives me confidence in a game.

“It isn’t something we work on, it just happens. A lot of that percentage would have been last tackle kicks, and we were trying to finish into my corner so that is a little bit of it.”

The confidence is certainly flowing. Ilias, who had only scored once all year prior to two weeks ago, has now scored in consecutive weeks. It isn’t that he simply is scoring: it is the type of try.

The try against the Bulldogs was a classic kick and chase move, a heads up play where he read the defence, while the second, against Melbourne, was a solo effort based on backing up as halfbacks should.

Both required a level of confidence that wasn’t as readily on show in earlier rounds, but appears to have skyrocketed since the hooking incident.

“I scored a bit coming through the grade and had the confidence,” said Ilias. “It’s not that I was lacking confidence at the start of the year, but I was just finding my feet. Now, I’m getting more and more confident every week.

“I’m backing up the middle. Against the Dogs, (Tevita) Pangai rushed me from the outside so it was the only option was to kick for myself – it’s not something I think about but it’s in the moment. It’s nice to get a try.”





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