Lachlan Ilias has been a whipping boy for South Sydney’s up-and-down NRL campaign in 2023 but winger Alex Johnston insists the halfback is the man to lead them out of their form slump.

Ilias’ first-grade career has always been held to high standards after he was anointed as Adam Reynolds’ successor at the start of 2022.

Reynolds has thrived since moving to Brisbane and that has led to Ilias’ performances receiving intense scrutiny, especially in recent months when Souths’ form has nosedived.

Eight-placed Souths have won just three of their nine games since the start of June and head to Newcastle on Sunday with their spot in the top eight on the line.

“If there’s any pressure it’s coming from outside and not from this team,” Johnston said of Ilias.

“We love him and know what he can do, he’s a star of the future.

“He’s only going to get better and we know the job he can do, which he is doing for us.”

The thought of the Rabbitohs missing the top eight would have been unimaginable at the start of the year but a long list of injuries headlined by Latrell Mitchell’s calf issue have hampered their finals push.

Back-rower Jacob Host said the club’s struggles could not be pinned solely on Ilias.

“He was there last year when we went deep into the finals and he was so good for us when we had a good run,” Host said.

“We as a team, we’ve been down a bit lately and as a halfback you take the brunt of it.”

Souths got a much-needed win against St George Illawarra last weekend but coach Jason Demetriou was critical of their respect for possession.

Only the lowly Wests Tigers have made more errors than Souths this year and Rabbitohs shot themselves in the foot against the Dragons with a completion rate of just 63 per cent.

“When we’re on we can be one of the best attacking teams in the competition,” Host added.

“We’re not dying wondering, it’s just one or two passes that aren’t on the money and we left 30 odd points out there. We’re working on it so we’re not making costly errors later in the year.”

Source: AAP