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)

Jason Demetriou has doubled down decision to hook rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias less than half hour into their clash with the Dragons, claiming he made the move to protect his young star.

Just 14 games into his first season at head coach, Ilias' hooking was the boldest move Demetriou has made thus far, pulling the halfback off after South Sydney conceded 32 points in just the opening 26 minutes, which all started with the number seven dropping the kick-off.

A host of fans and experts jumped to Ilias' defence, hoping the move didn't shatter the 22 year-old's confidence, as he continues to find his feet in the NRL.

"We saw it with young Kyle Flanagan, you saw the confidence drop away... I think it is really unfair on a young bloke" Matty Johns stated on his show, following the game.

While the move did appear harsh to some, on paper it worked out, with the Rabbitohs not conceding another point for the remaining 53 minutes of the contest, eventually falling 32-12 to the Red V.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21: Lachlan Ilias catches a pass during a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL training session at Redfern Oval on March 21, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Having named Ilias to start this weekend against Parramatta, Demetriou says Ilias wasn't the only culprit in that heavy loss, and believes his halfback will retain his confidence going into this week.

“Some of our other players needed to take ownership of that night. Lachie has bounced back, there have been some good conversations with him, and he’ll play this weekend, like he has all year," Demetriou said.

“Had I left him out there the other night and we get beaten by 60, who cops it? It’s the young half. It was my job to protect him, we did that, and we go again.”

While Ilias will have his load lightened by the return of playmaking custodian Latrell Mitchell, there's no doubt the Tigers junior will head into his individual battle against Mitchell Moses with a point to prove, and his work ethic at training is reportedly showing it.

“He’s come in and done extras, and he’s been more motivated than he has been the last month. I told him there are decisions I sometimes have to make that you won’t like. He’s part of our long-term plans. I’ve always supported him and have his back, and nothing has changed" Demetriou told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ilias will take the field this Saturday for the Bunnies with a vendetta in mind, as the club closes in on an extension that would tie the halfback to Redfern until at least the end of 2025.