Why his latest ban could be best thing that could happen to Latrell’s career – or the beginning of the end


With a month on the sidelines courtesy of the match review committee, Latrell Mitchell has plenty of time to contemplate his latest suspension. 

To also think about where he wants to take the rest of his career. 

Whether he wants to be remembered as an all-time great or someone who never fulfilled the full potential from their immense talent. 

It could be the best thing that has happened to his career. If he wants it to be. 

He has reportedly told his inner sanctum and South Sydney’s top brass that he wants to make amends and repay the team after letting them down with his reckless actions. 

The elbow to the head of Shaun Johnson was just the latest in a series of “brain snaps” that have given Mitchell’s many critics ample ammunition to fire even more potshots in his direction. 

It’s almost like his actions this season have been a collective cry for help. A mid-career crisis for a player who is now in his ninth season in the NRL after being thrown into the fray as a teenager at the Roosters in 2016. 

After being criticised for his lack of fitness last year, Mitchell lost plenty of weight in the off-season and looked set to redeem his reputation as one of the NRL’s most impactful fullbacks. 

But after playing strongly in the loss to Manly at Las Vegas, he has attracted negative publicity on a weekly basis – for swearing repeatedly in a post-match interview, then taking out Josh Addo-Carr and then last week’s incidents in the loss to the Warriors where he not only could have broken Johnson’s jaw but was lucky not to get a lengthier ban for his tackle on Tohu Harris. 

Latrell Mitchell. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Mitchell is a natural leader and a role model particularly for Indigenous Australians. 

His willingness to call out racism is noble and should be applauded, whether it’s online trolls, abusive fans at games or Spencer Leniu’s slur at Ezra Mam. 

The silent majority is on his side, not the vocal few who get way too much airplay in the modern media landscape. 

His voice will resonate further and for many years longer if he can again become an elite player in the NRL. 

It was hardly surprising that Phil Gould raised the possibility of Mitchell retiring on 100% Footy earlier this week. 

Mitchell has done it all, as they say, early in his career – two premierships at the Roosters, State of Origin and World Cup success, albeit not sustained at the rep level.

Gould has been around for a long time and seen many talented footballers, particularly Indigenous players, fall out of love with rugby league at an early age. 

Anthony Mundine is the most famous example of an uber talented Indigenous star who walked away, two years younger than Mitchell is now, in the middle of the 2000 season. 

He was rightly furious with being snubbed by representative selectors when he was lighting up the league with St George Illawarra alongside Nathan Blacklock, another Indigenous ace who should have had a longer career in league. 

Blacklock was somehow never given an Origin jersey by NSW selectors despite being arguably the best winger in the game while scoring 20 or more tries in four straight seasons. 

Heartbroken, he turned his back on the game to try his hand at rugby union with the Waratahs but was lost in a foreign code and despite returning to the Dragons, his career was never the same again. 

South Sydney have been the NRL’s gold standard club for the way they have nurtured Indigenous talent, honouring their Redfern heartland and galvanising the First Nations communities far and wide. 

Mitchell is in no better place to get the understanding he needs to get his career back on track. 

But he also has to take ownership of his actions. Be totally focused on training, tactics and contributing with non-stop effort in games. 

Gould alluded to Mitchell’s poor attitude in the effort areas of the game and that is a weak point. 

His stats compared to other fullbacks compare unfavourably when it comes to running metres, kick returns and hit-ups. 

Fullbacks and wingers are essential to getting an attacking set up and running. Forwards can only get momentum in the middle if hard yards are already racked up by the back three. 

There’s no doubting Mitchell’s ability to be a game breaker, create breaks and own the big moments. 

But unless he adds the hard-working elements to his game, he will be known as someone who floats in and out of contests rather than someone who rolls up their sleeves to be a complete player. 

By the time he returns from his month-long sabbatical from three weeks suspended and the bye next week, he could be walking into an entirely different Souths side with coach Jason Demetriou potentially getting the boot after this Saturday’s home clash with Cronulla. 

“Latrell’s lucky.”

Latrell Mitchell was put on report for this dangerous elbow on Shaun Johnson.

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The coach may be able to turn the tide without Mitchell. He’s leaving no stone unturned in his quest to keep his job – dumping Origin hooker Damien Cook to NSW Cup in a bid to shake up his side. 

If the Bunnies can jag a couple of wins while Mitchell is out, there could still be time to save their season. 

They’re a team that in recent years has shown that when they get on a roll, their momentum is hard to stop. 

If they get the best version of Mitchell, there is the smallest glimmer of hope that they can salvage their finals campaign.

Unfortunately for them, they have stalled in 2024 and losing is becoming a habit. 

They will definitely continue to pile up the losses if Mitchell displays the same low levels of commitment, discipline and effort.

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