After three years of profound coaching success in North Queensland, Jason Demetriou returned home to take on the dual role as Illawarra Cutters head coach and St George Illawarra Dragons assistant coach.
The door opened for Demetriou to return to his home district when Ian Millward relinquished his Cutters’ coaching duties after becoming the Director of Rugby League Pathways.
“My job is to make sure that when the opportunity comes for Cutters players to step up to first grade that they’re ready to take it,” Demetriou said.
“It’s also my role to try to educate and improve a couple of the guys outside the top squad that try to get into our squad.
“If every player outside the first grade squad can make some sort of impression in the first grade team, then I’ve done a good job.
“What I don’t want is players getting opportunities and then not taking them because they haven’t prepared well enough.”
After growing up in the St George district and playing his junior representative football for the Dragons, Demetriou then spent 13 years playing professional Rugby League in England.
After being a player/coach for the Keighley Cougars (West Yorkshire) for his final two playing seasons in England, he made a successful move to North Queensland in 2013.
He took Northern Pride to a Queensland Cup premiership, two minor premierships and the NRL State Championship in the space of two seasons, as well as being an assistant coach for the North Queensland Cowboys in their 2015 Premiership victory.
“We won four trophies in two years (at Northern Pride) and had a lot of success up there, but I learned a lot of lessons as well,” Demetriou said.
“They are lessons that I’m able to take into the full-time environment that will be important for when I’m coaching the Cutters.
“I said to the Cutters boys when I first got the job that I’m excited to be having the dual role - it’s a lot of work, but it gives you a chance to have your own team and some control over how they perform.”
Demetriou is optimistic about the squad the Dragons and Cutters possess, which was a reason for the move – along with the Sydney homecoming.
“I had a couple of conversations with Paul (McGregor) over Christmas,” said Demetriou.
“My family and I were always looking to get back to Sydney, and after speaking to him I knew that he was the right guy I wanted to work with and the roster they’ve got here.
“Obviously I had a lot of success last year at the Cowboys, but I felt it was the right move for me and my family.”
To ease into the Cutters role, he is shadowing Millward at training sessions before taking the reins himself.
The Cutters are coming off a disappointing 2015 season; therefore Demetriou wasted no time making himself known, and is keen to turn them into a premiership side.
“It’s just about giving an opportunity to young guys who are desperate to make it … you’ve got some guys that are hungry to still play at a higher level, and it’s my job to teach them and give them opportunities to do that,” said Demetriou.
“I think they’re physically where they need to be … just got to make sure I can educate them and give them the belief that they can achieve better things. I’m more than confident that we’ll do well.”