I’ve changed my mind on Latrell – now the Blues must do the same


Take his problematic relationship with NSW and, it seems, coach Michael Maguire.

As well as Mitchell played against the Titans, setting up tries with soft-as-butter hands or stopping them with scything tackles in the last line of defence, there is no guarantee Maguire will pick him for the must-win match at the MCG on June 26.

NSW Origin coach Michael Maguire.

NSW Origin coach Michael Maguire.Credit: Flavio Brancaleone

The assumption is Maguire is picking players on form and attitude, not reputation. Until the last few weeks, Mitchell has been streaky with the first two and living mostly on the third.

There’s also an ongoing discussion about how much he cares about the sky-blue jumper, which isn’t the type of all-in ethos Maguire wants to establish.

It’s very tricky separating fact from fiction about this issue.

This masthead revealed in late April that Mitchell had told Souths officials he was thinking about making himself unavailable for Origin selection to concentrate on turning around his club’s season.

Latrell Mitchell was reported to be focusing on club football with South Sydney.

Latrell Mitchell was reported to be focusing on club football with South Sydney.Credit: Getty

In the lead-up to Origin I, a Souths official confirmed to this column that was indeed the case, but insisted Mitchell was “available” for selection.

When he was overlooked, News Corp journalist Phil Rothfield told Sky Sports Radio that the reason was a frosty meeting between the pair.

“Madge walked away from that meeting with an opinion that he [Latrell] wasn’t overly obsessed about wearing the Blues jersey,” Rothfield said.

Mitchell responded through Instagram: “Just to clarify – Buzz Rothfield at it again telling yarns. I’m always committed to playing for NSW. I specifically said to Madge via phone call if I’m playing well enough for me to be in your side, then I’m 100 per cent in. I bleed blue, I love the rivalry and the Origin arena.”

The call probably belongs to the Blues’ senior players. If they want Mitchell back in, the rest of us should shut up and accept it.

Since then, speculation has swirled about exactly what has gone down between Maguire and Mitchell in the last few months. Neither has really cleared the air on the record.

Mitchell didn’t help his chances of selection for game two with a cryptic Instagram story as NSW tumbled to a record 38-10 loss to Queensland last Wednesday night.

He posted an image of himself with an index finger on his lips, looking all curious and mysterious and pensive. Again, it wasn’t clear what the message was or to whom it was directed.

Nevertheless, several figures within the Blues set-up were angry …

Latrell Mitchell rages during a star turn against the Titans.

Latrell Mitchell rages during a star turn against the Titans.Credit: NRL Photos

The whole thing seems very petty, doesn’t it? How did it get to this? What about a couple of beers to hug it out?

NSW should not be Mitchell’s enemy. The only winner out of their animosity is Queensland.

The call to bring him back probably belongs to the Blues’ senior players. If they want Mitchell back in, the rest of us should shut up and accept it.

Then let’s sit back and see if he can live up to that enormous ego of his, and I don’t mean that in a bad way whatsoever. That’s when he’s at his best.

Mitchell had a point to prove against the Titans and he made it several times with several scene-stealing plays.

What must have impressed Maguire most, however, was his unwavering involvement on both sides of the ball, something that’s been missing at times in the past two seasons.

Most great athletes carry a chip on their shoulder. They have many enemies, real and imagined. They use the slightest of slights against them as competitive fuel. See Michael Jordan in The Last Dance.

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After Souths’ win against the Titans, Mitchell’s former Roosters teammate, Luke Keary, went out of his way on Fox Sports’ Super Saturday panel to also make a point.

“Just with Latrell,” he said. “I’ve stood next to him in some big games. Two grand finals. Whether he’s in form, out of form, fullback, in, out, whatever you want to say about him. If he lines up in an Origin, I can guarantee you that … he puts belief in those around him. He can come up with massive plays at different times. He will turn up for NSW.”

He just needs to be selected first.

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