Rabbitohs boss grilled over fresh NRL fallout as Sam Burgess detail is called out

Blake Solly has been quizzed about the culture at Souths following the sacking of Jason Demetriou.

Souths CEO Blake Solly has been forced to face some home truths in the wake of Jason Demetriou's sacking. Demetriou was axed after an emergency Rabbitohs board meeting on Tuesday night, with Ben Hornby put in charge of the NRL club in the interim.

Hornby's first assignment is Thursday night's difficult encounter with defending premiers Penrith Panthers. South Sydney has confirmed former Bunnies mentor, Wayne Bennett, is the frontrunner to replace him after his contract with the Dolphins ends at the end of the year.

But the Demetriou saga has exposed a damning reality at Souths, one pointed out 12 months earlier by Sam Burgess. Burgess was an assistant coach at the Bunnies following his retirement in 2019 but left his role last year after it was claimed that he was undermining Demetriou.

Pictured Blake Solly left and Sam Burgess and Wayne Bennett right
Blake Solly has been quizzed about the culture at Souths following Jason Demetriou's sacking. Image: Getty

Burgess fell out with the Souths hierarchy after he questioned the club's training standards. He claimed stars such as Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were given preferential treatment by the club's coaches before he ended up leaving the club. He then signed a deal to coach Warrington in the English Super League in what is his first job as a professional head coach.

At the time Souths swept the concerns about the club's culture under the rug but following Demetriou's sacking Solly was presented with some harsh truths on NRL360 on Wednesday night. Close friend of Burgess, Braith Anasta, former teammate James Graham, James Hooper and Michael Carayannis all grilled the Souths CEO over whether Burgess was right all along.

Warrington Wolves head coach Sam Burgess celebrates following the Betfred Challenge Cup quarter-final match at the Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens. Picture date: Sunday April 14, 2024. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sam Burgess is currently coaching Warrington in the English Super League.

When asked by Hooper if he now feels Burgess was right all along, Solly refused to speak on what was said at the time of his exit, saying the conversation between him and the Warrington coach was private. "Sam assures me that he never spoke to anyone in the media, so I don’t know what the conversations he may have had outside these four walls, but what Sam and I discussed in private will remain in private," Solly said.

Anasta pointed out that much of what Burgess observed continued to play out at the club and that as a close friend of his, he had conversations about what he was seeing. When Anasta then asked Solly if he regrets not listening to the club legend he said: "First of all, I’m surprised, because Sam’s always assured me that he never spoke to anyone in the media".


Anasta butted in adding: "I’m a good friend of his and have been for a very long time, so it was just more a conversation between mates and a concern for a club that he loves, that he’s won a Grand Final for and really wanted to spend the rest of his career there. It's not journalism here, it’s just a conversation between mates and talking about what was actually happening in that club."

To which Solly replied: "That’s fine, Braith. But I think you’re a commentator and you’re hosting a show, so I’d accept that you’re a journalist".

"But look, on that point, Sam’s commentary or what Sam told me was important and we recognised it in some of the ways in which we attacked the pre-season and some of the ways in which we changed some of the structures around the club, reflected his commentary and his concerns about where we were going," Solly said.

The Rabbitohs CEO was then quizzed on if he thought Demetriou was too soft on the playing group. "I don’t think Jason gave them (the playing group) too much power," he said.

"I think that’s an unfair characterisation of what happened. Jason certainly believed in the playing squad. He’s done a lot of work with Shane McCurry who has worked with Richmond Football Club. He’s certainly believed in a player-led leadership model. I don’t think that necessarily means he’s given them too much power, but he’s certainly believed in what their leadership could do and what it could achieve on the field and off the field for them as people."