The South Sydney Rabbitohs have parted ways with Sam Burgess with immediate effect, in another dramatic twist for the embattled club. Reports emerged on Tuesday night that the board was considering the immediate futures of assistant coaches Burgess and John Morris, despite there being just two games remaining in the regular season.
Burgess was already set to depart at season's end to take up the head coaching role at Warrington in 2024, while Morris has been linked to a move to the Wests Tigers to be Benji Marshall's assistant. But in a shock twist on Wednesday, the board decided to parting ways with Burgess immediately after calling in co-owner Russell Crowe to help make the decision.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, club powerbrokers called Crowe for advice before making the decision on Wednesday. Souths spared Morris, who will remain alongside fellow assistant Ben Hornby. Crowe and Burgess are said to have a strong bond, making the decision even more complicated.
Burgess and Morris have reportedly been unimpressed by the 'preferential treatment' afforded to Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, who haven't been held to the same standards as their teammates at training. The assistant coaches reportedly called head coach Jason Demetriou out over the treatment of the star players, which reportedly led to the board considering their roles for the remainder of the season.
Burgess, who helped the Rabbitohs win the premiership in 2014, left training early on Wednesday morning. He was whisked away by his partner outside the club's training centre prior to their morning session. Club chairman Nick Pappas left soon after Burgess and said: "We wish Sam all the best."
South Sydney on verge of embarrassing finals miss
The Rabbitohs' season is in freefall and there's no guarantee they will make the finals. After a bye this week they will face the Roosters in Round 27 in a blockbuster match that could decide who makes the finals and who misses out.
Discussing the situation on NRL 360 on Tuesday night, journalist Paul Crawley described the Burgess and Morris decision as a "bombshell moment" and said it could be fatal for Demetriou due to Burgess' standing at the club where he won a drought-breaking premiership. “Sam Burgess is royalty at South Sydney, John Morris is an assistant coach. I can understand it if they’re on a different page to Jason Demetriou why there has to be a change, but if that’s the case this is Jason Demetriou’s line in the sand moment," Crawley said.
“It’s a very brave move, but I believe it could be potentially fatal because of who Sam Burgess is. He has total respect from the players, he has respect within the club at every level. If you’ve pushed him aside and South Sydney go on to lose to the Roosters and miss out on finals, next year he’ll be coaching for his future.”
Gorden Tallis said the timing of the decision was “confusing,” but journalist David Riccio said: “We’ve all been around the game long enough to understand how important harmony at the coaching staff level is. If you’re talking about still making finals, you can’t do that when there isn’t harmony in the elite level of your coaching staff.”
Latrell Mitchell savaged amid dramas at South Sydney
The Rabbitohs were sitting pretty atop the table at 8-3 earlier in the season, but their lack of discipline and commitment has been exposed. Mitchell was taken to task for a woeful performance against the Knights last weekend, which culminated in him being suspended for an elbow on Tyson Frizell. The fullback will miss the final-round clash with the Roosters in a major blow to the Rabbitohs' finals hopes.
“Tell me whatever you want to tell me and he is not solely to blame, but he is the leader at that club," Braith Anasta said about Mitchell on Monday night. "He is the barometer and once he starts making better decisions and wears his heart on his sleeve (they will get better).
“There’s a reason why you are a premier club and you aren’t winning, it’s not a coincidence. Discipline comes from standards, which comes from training, which comes from taking the standards set at training on to the footy field. They are last in errors, second last in completion rates.”
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