South Sydney Rabbitohs Training Session
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)

South Sydney Rabbitohs head coach Jason Demetriou is concerned for his player's long-term health, and has come up with a plan to reduce his squad's number of head knocks in 2023.

Like every club, the Rabbitohs succumbed to a number of concussions over last season, especially captain Cameron Murray, however the number of senior retired players now coming forth with brain injuries have coaches on red alert.

The likes of Ray Price and Mario Fenech have told their stories to the public, not seeking compassion, but looking to raise awareness to ensure today's generation don't end up in the same state.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - 1993: Sean Hoppe and Mario Fenech of the North Sydney Bears celebrates after a NSWRL finals match at the Sydney Football Stadium 1993, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Getty Images)

Appearing on The Bye Round with James GrahamDemetriou spoke about the key causes behind the rising number of HIAs in the game, specifically due to players getting their heads in the wrong spot, and how wrestling has come into play.

“I think a lot of that's come from the last ten years being more wrestle-orientated than safe tackle practice and that goes right down,” Demetriou said on the podcast.

“I remember watching an under 10s game at Shark Park a few years ago and listening to a coach talk about slow death on the sideline and I thought ‘what are we talking about?'

“We've just got to get back to teaching kids and all the way through to first grade safe tackle practice, where to put your head and how to approach a tackle, all that sort of stuff because I think it's the competitive advantage now in first grade.

“To be able to minimise head knocks first and foremost — which can change a game or change a player's career — but also if you don't get your feet right you tackle high or you get it wrong and you're going to get sent off and spend time on the sidelines.

“I think there's a real (opportunity) for us as a club... I want to focus on footwork into collision and understanding how to be safe about that.”

South Sydney Rabbitohs Training Session
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Rabbbitohs assistant coach Jason Demetriou talks to Rabbitohs head coach Wayne Bennett during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on March 09, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The Rugby League World Cup carried a mandatory 11-day stand-down if a player was concussed or suffered a head injury, ruling Reuben Cotter out for a Kangaroos pool game, as well Fa'amanu Brown who missed Samoa's maiden World Cup final appearance after being knocked out in their semi.

However it's Murray, who suffered three concussions in 2022, that has Demetriou working to make sure his players are safe.

“Again we want that, everyone loves that brutality of our game (but we can) still have that in a way you don't have to knock yourself out doing it.

“I had this conversation with Cam (Murray), he's got to be smarter in the initial parts of the game because once a bit of fatigue gets in those flying out of line things tend to go away.

“How many times do you see players these days get their head on the wrong side and get hip on?

“We need to teach players to get back to approaching to the tackle where to hit and to understand sometimes there's going to be a reactional thing where a footwork gets you."

NRL Rd 25 - Roosters v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Cameron Murray of the Rabbitohs reacts after a tackle during the round 25 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 02, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

While he wants South Sydney to win, he wants the players walking away post-retirement unphased by the years of physical contact, instead of it affecting their daily lives like Fenech and Price.

“Again for me as a coach it's about making sure your players are safe,” Demetriou said.

“I don't want to be here in ten years time talking about pushing a player to do things that have not set him up for life after footy.

“For me life after footy's important, it's one of the main factors that I talk to the players about, there's a long life after footy.

“Most of us if we're lucky will get to our early thirties and there'll be fatherhood, married life and a lot of experiences to experience that are going to bring us joy and we want our players to embrace that.”


  1. The problem is, I believe, that even if Jason Demetriou improves the tackling techniques of his team, his players will still be liable to being hit in the head by undisciplined opponents.

    Unless the NRL gets serious about head high tackles and directs referees to send off players – and supports the refs, and carries on with implementing the directive despite squeals of anguish from social media and commentators – then we will never stamp head high tackles out of the game, and reduce the risk of brain damage.

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