Wakefield Trinity legend Jason Demetriou says UK experiences were key to his coaching progression
WITH JASON Demetriou set to take over from Wayne Bennett at South Sydney next year, he has revealed how, in some areas, he rates his former Wakefield Trinity head coach John Kear just as highly as the legendary Australian.
It was confirmed recently the Souths assistant will replace ex-England and Kangaroos boss Bennett at the helm of Redfern for 2022, capping a brilliant rise through the coaching ranks.
Demetriou, 44, has been an assistant at North Queensland Cowboys, St George-Illawarra and Brisbane Broncos but the popular Australian, of course, spent most of his playing career in the UK.
That is where he became a Trinity legend, making almost 200 appearances as they enjoyed some of their best times of the modern era.
Captain Demetriou was shortlisted for Man of Steel with Kangaroos star Trent Barrett and James Roby in 2007 after the centre’s exploits at Belle Vue earned him a Dream Team spot.
It was at Wakefield where he came under the guidance of Kear and, when Demetriou eventually left in 2010, he was already well set to start his own professional coaching career as Keighley Cougars’ player-coach.
Speaking from his home in Sydney, he told the YEP: “It’s pretty exciting to have this all locked in and be able to plan for the future.
“Souths is an historic club with so much history and to get a first opportunity with a club like this is great. I’m looking forward to it.
“I’ve picked up plenty from different coaches over the years and definitely learned a lot from John Kear. He was a great mentor for me in terms of leadership and that motivation space, understanding how to get players up for a game and the processes it took.
“We worked quite closely and, to this day, I’ve worked with some good coaches.
“This period now with Wayne Bennett, then Paul McGregor (St George), Paul Green at the Cowboys. But John Kear was up there with Wayne in terms of being able to motivate a group of individuals.”
Demetriou, who also helped out coaching local amateur club Crigglestone All Blacks while at Trinity, added: “My time at Wakefield is probably the highlight of my career.
“I was fortunate to spend time at two great clubs over there in Widnes and Wakefield.
“To captain Trinity for five years and achieve the highs that I did and build the club the way we did was great. At the time we were battling relegation but we went on and made finals (play-offs) twice and through a lot of adversity as well.
“It was a club that never spent the cap and we had to make sure the culture and personnel was right but we had some great times and it’s great to see the club doing some good things now under Chris Chester.”
Bennett, of course, is arguably the greatest rugby league coach of all time, the 70-year-old having achieved so much during a glittering career.
Demetriou worked with the former England chief at Brisbane and then followed him to Souths ahead of last season. He said: “From Wayne, I’ve learned a hell of a lot in terms of the day-to-day little things he does with his players and the care he has for them.
“He’s a real players’ coach; everything he does is to protect them and to help them as much as he can. The way he handles off-field stuff and deflects some things away from the team, he controls the narrative really well. He’s probably the master of that. It’s been a great experience and, for sure, he’s been a big part of the opportunity I’ve just been granted at South Sydney.”
As a teenager, Demetriou coached junior sides in Australia up until, aged 23, he flew to the UK to join Lancashire Lynx. His last club here was third-tier Keighley, whom he joined as player-coach in 2011, giving him valuable experience to take home.
“I was probably fortunate to get a chance to do that and it was a great platform for me,” explained Demetriou. “The biggest thing it gave me was an appreciation for every decision you make. We didn’t have money to rely on to buy a team so had to make sure that everything we did was about getting the right people in and creating the right culture.
“And then it was doing everything we could to get every penny out of everything; everyone at the club would chip in, we were under-staffed and we created a good atmosphere.
“We got promoted the first year and made the finals (play-offs) of the Championship in the second. I loved it.
“There were times I was marking lines, or cleaning out changing rooms – all the things you don’t expect head coaches to be doing – but that’s what we all did, helping save money so every penny we had could be invested in players. I think players appreciated that and it gave a good work ethic for the footy team as well.”
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