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Friday, May 24, 2024

‘That interests me’: Meninga makes pitch for Souths job

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has thrown his hat in the ring to take charge of South Sydney on a short-term basis as the axe hovers over the embattled Jason Demetriou.

There is speculation the Rabbitohs’ Saturday evening clash with Cronulla could be Demetriou’s last at the helm, although chief executive Blake Solly and chairman Nick Pappas insist they have not begun planning for a new NRL coach.

Demetriou’s side have got off to a 1-4 start and will be without star fullback Latrell Mitchell (suspended) and hooker Damien Cook (dropped) against the Sharks. 

The coach was in October handed a three-year extension despite missing last season’s finals. 

Souths are adamant they have not made any overtures to Meninga, and the current Kangaroos Test coach said on SEN radio on Thursday he had received no official approach from the club. 

But Meninga, who hasn’t coached at club level since a stint with Canberra more than 20 years ago, said he would be open to the move, should Souths give Demetriou the boot.

“I know there’s interest,” Meninga told SEN1170. 

“But the first thing I have to say is there has been no official (approach).

“I feel a bit sorry for what’s happening at the club, we want to see a South Sydney Rabbitohs team firing.

“I feel a bit sorry for the coach, there’s a lot of media speculation … (but) I love the idea of being an interim coach.

“I’ve got some big commitments in my life, there’s a lot of consideration that needs to take place.

“I’m happy living in Canberra so, in the short term, it’s certainly something that interests me and I’m flattered my name has been mentioned at all.” 

Meninga said he has a good relationship with Souths’ key players – including Cook, Mitchell, Jack Wighton and Cameron Murray, who he has coached with the Kangaroos – and said he would have no issue pulling them into line.

“You’ve got to have a strong rapport, an honest rapport, with them,” Meninga said.

“You need to have these honest conversations and I know they’re having them at the moment. 

“But, from the outside looking in, they’re not responding the way they wanted to.” 

Meninga was keen to underline he would happily help shape the club for another coach to pick up the baton at the end of 2024.

Former Rabbitohs’ coaches Wayne Bennett and Michael Maguire have both been linked with returning to the club in 2025. 

“If one of those guys gets the gig next year then I’m happy to work with them – if I’m there, of course,” Meninga said. 

Souths on Thursday announced fill-in fullback Jye Gray had signed a new two-year deal with the club.

The 20-year-old – who can play at No.1 or in the halves – will make his debut in place of the suspended Mitchell on Saturday night.

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