Souths on verge of historic NRL collapse amid dramas

Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS

South Sydney are at risk of the greatest capitulation of the NRL era, with the Rabbitohs set to create unwanted history if they fall from top of the ladder to out of the finals in three-and-a-half months.

Leading the competition as recently as round 11, the besieged Rabbitohs enter Friday night's final-round clash with arch-rivals Sydney Roosters fighting to keep their season alive.

Sam Burgess' exit as assistant coach, concerns over Jason Demetriou's supposed light handling of Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, and scathing criticism of Mitchell from club great Clive Churchill's son Rodney have dominated headlines in the past week.

But the reality is, the Rabbitohs have equally big issues on the field.

Not since 1992 - and prior to the league adopting a top-eight finals system - has a team gone from top of the ladder in round 11 or later to out of the finals.

The collapse has come as Souths' defence has dipped significantly, going from conceding 13.64 points per game through the first 11 rounds to 27.41 in 12 matches since.

Equally concerning for Souths is their record without Mitchell in 2023, with the superstar No.1 to miss Friday night's blockbuster through suspension.

While the 26-year-old's form has been questioned in the past month, the Rabbitohs are 10-6 with him in the side this year and 2-4 without him.

Former Rabbitohs captain Adam Reynolds defended Mitchell and Walker on Monday, saying he had never experienced issues with either amidst the team dynamic at Souths.

Now eying off a premiership charge at Brisbane, Reynolds said he was unsure how Demetriou had treated the pair, but had not seen preferential treatment from previous coaches at Redfern.

"I don't know the dynamics of what is going on behind the scenes but (Latrell) was always fantastic to work with when I was there, as well as all the other boys," Reynolds said

"They were a good group of boys. They were tight knit.

"I'm not sure what has gone on the last two years. I've got things to worry about up here now. My focus cant be down there."

Reynolds also said it was important for Mitchell to block out the heavy criticism from people including Rodney Churchill, and not become too caught up in the situation.

"It is important for Latrell to stick to himself and solid to what he believes in," Reynolds said.

"It is an opinion. Not everyone thinks the same way. Everyone has the right to an opinion."