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Ilias not even half the problem as Rabbitohs' woes run far deeper than struggling playmaker

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Roar Rookie
19th March, 2024
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We have all self-diagnosed on the internet. A sudden pain under your arm, a throbbing headache. Type these symptoms into Doctor Google and you may have anything from migraines to period pains.

The point (outside of seeing a medical professional) is that not all symptoms reveal the illness. South Sydney are in their self-diagnosing phase following back-to-back losses to start the season. The winless start has left them searching for answers and resulted in the dropping of Lachlan Illias.

He had been underperforming dating back to last year, but is his demotion the cure to the team’s loss in form or just a symptom?

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 14: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs prepares to kick during the round two NRL match between Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium, on March 14, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)Latrell Mitchell. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)[/caption]

He has averaged 16 games over the past three seasons, with a cocktail of injuries and suspensions being the core ingredients. When Latrell does play, his lack of involvement puts Souths on the back foot against quality opposition.

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Of the qualified fullbacks to have played 15 games last year, Latrell ranked 11th in total runs per game. He is a moments player, someone who can produce plays that swing the momentum of the game. But these moments are far too fleeting. You can afford to be a moments footballer when you are a centre or a winger, affording to take sets off until the ball comes your way.

Fullbacks on the other hand need to own the result. Touching the ball regularly and trailing the play are all essential requirements to be a truly elite fullback. Ilias on the surface level inherited a grand final team littered with star talent. But it is when you look underneath the surface that you can see the problems are far more systematic.

This is not to say that Illias has performed well. Far from it. He has been far too error-prone for a playmaker that lacks creativity. Illias has ranked in the top five for total errors by a halves player over the past two years. He has shown little improvement from his first game. It is difficult to argue that he does not deserve to be dropped.

However, Ilias is a symptom and not the cause of their losses. Dropping him may only provide temporary pain relief without treating the root causes of the illness.

Ilias has underperformed, but his dropping cannot be seen as the sole remedy when considering the structural damage in the framework of the attitude and design of the Rabbitohs roster.

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