South Sydney Rabbitohs star fullback Latrell Mitchell has made the selfless decision to rule himself out of the Ampol State of Origin series decider after making a triumphant return from injury tonight.
Mitchell lined up for his first game since Round Five and played a starring role in the Rabbitohs 30-12 win over the Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium.
The Souths No.1, who had been out since early April with a hamstring injury and then COVID-19, ran for 142 metres, made six tackle breaks, two offloads, landed five conversions and played a leading hand in the final try to Damien Cook.
Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will announce his team on Monday for Game Three at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Wednesday 13 July with the contenders for the centre position including Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton, Jack Wighton and Mitchell.
Mitchell told Fox League on FOX SPORTS that he wanted to focus on Souths, and that Burton and Crichton deserved to keep their spots after being part of the team which won Game Two 44-12 in Perth.
“I think I’m going to shut down them headlines now; I’m going to pull myself out and worry about Souths and focus on myself,” Mitchell said.
“They’ve got a really good team there at NSW and good luck to Burton in the centres and give Crichton a go too. I just really want to focus on South Sydney and myself and get myself right for the back end of the season.”
Mitchell’s teammate and NSW hooker Damien Cook said he wasn’t surprised by the selfless act.
“I’m proud of him, he put in a lot of work, he’s been out of the game for a long time with a couple of injuries, got himself right,” Cook said.
“He’s putting his club first so as a South Sydney man I’m very proud to hear that even though he’s outstanding on that stage and he deserves to be there, but injuries have stopped that this year.”
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said he had not spoken to Mitchell about ruling himself out of the Origin decider and he would never stop any player from pulling on a representative jumper.
“He’s very committed to the boys; I think it’s him being respectful to the Blues team as well that played last week and did a great job,” Demetriou said.
“I’ll leave him to have those conversations with ‘Freddy’. I’m just excited to have him back in a red and green jumper and I’m looking forward to the back end of the year.
“I’m not in a position to tell anybody they can’t play Origin. That’s not what I do; that’s up to the player. I’m not somebody who’s going to say, ‘You can’t play for the Blues.’
“That’s up him and only him. He’s done a lot of work to get himself into this position, he knows what he’s capable of doing. He’s a big boy and makes his own decisions.”
Mitchell said he felt good after his first 80-minute hit-out since injuring his hamstring against St George Illawarra Dragons in Round Five. The Souths fullback headed to the United States for specialist medical treatment as it was his second serious hamstring injury in three years.
“It’s just really good to get back, I worked really hard,” Mitchell said.
“I sacrificed so much in a short period of time to get myself right and I felt really good physically, mentally and emotionally.
“I’ve grown so much and matured. I’m 25 now so I’m getting on.”
Mitchell was a standout for the Blues last season in helping to clinch the series in the first two games and was later awarded the True Blue award for espousing the values on which the team culture is built.