South Sydney star Damien Cook has hit out at the NRL club's critics, claiming it is an easy cop out and simply wrong to blame the Rabbitohs' inconsistent start on Adam Reynolds' exit.
Cook on Wednesday launched a strong defence of young half Lachlan Ilias, with the Rabbitohs battling to stay in the top eight.
Coach Jason Demetriou has also told Souths players it is almost a case of now or never to find form, after going 5-6 through the opening 11 rounds.
The Rabbitohs sit last of all teams in average completion rates at 72 per cent, averaging 13 errors per game ahead of Saturday's clash with Wests Tigers.
And while Cook admitted they were guilty of panicking when behind on the scoreboard, he was adamant that couldn't be put down to the loss of an experienced half in Reynolds to Brisbane.
"It's just an easy cop out really for people to say that we're missing him, we're not," Cook said.
"Lachy has been one of our consistent players. It's individual areas right across the board that where we're making errors.
"If our team's not going forward and not completing well, what can we expect our halves to do off the back of that?
"We've got to make sure we're doing a good job and those little things, getting the completion rate up individually and as a team.
"And then when we get down there (in attack), letting the halves do their thing."
The Rabbitohs also lost coach Wayne Bennett at the end of last year, as well as the experience of Dane Gagai and Benji Marshall.
But Souths' decision not to offer local junior Reynolds a longer contract to keep him continues to draw the most attention and criticism.
Alex Johnston was one player to admit the Rabbitohs' attack has not flowed this season as they adjust to new combinations, with Latrell Mitchell's absence through injury no doubt felt too.
In comparison Brisbane have won their last five matches with Reynolds playing and starring in four of those, including a round-nine defeat of Souths.
But Cook said he felt all that talk was unfair on 22-year-old Ilias, who is seen as a long-term prospect at Redfern.
"(I feel for him) a little bit, because he's copped a lot of pressure and we're talking about a halfback, which is one of the biggest roles in a team," Cook said.
"He's only 10 or 11 games into his career. So he's still learning his trade.
"He's showing signs of a great halfback already and he's got the bases there, including defence and a great kicking game."
In better news for Souths and NSW, Cameron Murray trained again with a no-contact bib on Wednesday, in the hope he can recover from shoulder surgery before State of Origin teams are named.
Australian Associated Press
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