Andrew Johns speaks out as new theory emerges about 'angry' Latrell Mitchell

The NRL legend believes the Souths fullback has been off his game since the middle of last year.

NRL icon Andrew Johns believes South Sydney superstar Latrell Mitchell has been playing 'angry' amid theories suggesting the fullback's drop in form is in part due to the Las Vegas racism scandal. The Bunnies No.1 was one of the most vocal calling for Roosters prop Spencer Leniu to receive a mammoth ban after he called Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam a "monkey" in round one.

Leniu was suspended for eight matches by the NRL judiciary for the racist slur. Following the suspension being handed down, Mitchell called out the NRL for not being harsh enough, stating the league 'better deal with this sh**' before engaging in a war of words with Anthony Mundine after the former boxer claimed Leniu's remark wasn't racist.

Latrell Mitchell pictured left and Andrew Johns pictured right
Latrell Mitchell pictured left and Andrew Johns pictured right

The NRL chose not to punish Mitchell for his remarks but since then the Souths star has only got in more trouble. He was heavily criticised for giving a foul-mouthed post-match interview to Triple M.

Mitchell also put close friend Josh Addo-Carr out of the game after the Bulldogs winger was collected by his hip on Good Friday. And most recently the Souths star copped a three-game ban for elbowing Shaun Johnson's head, in one of two incidents he was placed on report for in the Rabbitohs' embarrassing 34-4 defeat to the Warriors last weekend.

Brad Fittler hypothesised his recent outbursts are partially due to what happened with Mam in Vegas. "It started this year after Las Vegas," Fittler told Wide World of Sports' Freddy and the Eighth. "They got beat over there (by Manly) and it really amplified from there. He's been held out there as one of the Indigenous leaders and that takes a lot, I'm sure, of your energy.

"That's what happens when you start delving into social media, playing a bit of your life out on the social platforms. It takes a lot of your life. He doesn't have to touch his social media - people understand his position with the Indigenous fight, and the more and the better he plays football, the better his message is always going to be."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 06: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs reacts following the round five NRL match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and New Zealand Warriors at Accor Stadium, on April 06, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Andrew Johns believe Latrell Mitchell's worries go back well before Vegas, citing him falling out of form midway through last season.

Andrew Johns believes Latrell Mitchell's mind is elsewhere

But Johns doesn't believe his fall off in form stems from the Vegas incident, citing that the fullback has struggled since midway through last season and believes Mitchell's latest match was a 'cry for help'. "Since probably the middle of last year... they were leading (the ladder) and Latrell was on fire," Johns said.

"But since then, for some reason, Latrell's form has gone down and South Sydney's has gone with it. Since then it looks like his mind is elsewhere. He looked angry on the weekend. (Is it) a cry for help? "


Latrell Mitchell admits 2023 season was mentally draining

Before the season got underway, Mitchell poured his heart out about a "mentally draining" 2023. Mitchell and the Rabbitohs endured a tumultuous 2023 season in which they made unwanted history after missing out on finals footy, despite leading the competition at round 11.

Things started to go wrong for Mitchell when injury ruled him out of the Blues' State of Origin series defeat to the Maroons. He was then heavily scrutinised upon returning for the Bunnies before his season ended early due to a suspension against the Knights in the second round of the regular season.

Mitchell also had a court case alongside close mate and Souths recruit Jack Wighton hanging over his head for the 2023 season. The pair ultimately had charges dropped against them and were cleared after a police officer admitted to providing false evidence to court over their arrest in Canberra in February last year.

Phil Gould fears Latrell Mitchell could walk away from the NRL

Phil Gould sparked fresh fears that Mitchell will walk away from the NRL questioning if the Souths star even wants to play NRL. "Has anyone ever sat Latrell down and said 'do you really want to play this game? Are you really in love with this game? Do you love the hard work? Do you love the discipline? Do you love your teammates? Do you love the club?," Gould asked.

"Or is it just 'I'll do it because I'm good at it but I'll do it my own way?' Has someone actually sat him down and said 'If you had a chance to walk away, would you go?' I reckon he would. I reckon he will, I don't see that he's in love with it at all."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Canterbury Bulldogs NRL General Manager of Football Phil Gould speaks to the media at Belmore Sports Ground on May 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. Gould spoke to the media as he left the ground after the announcement this morning that Trent Barrett had quit the role of Bulldogs head coach. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Phil Gould sparked fresh fears that Mitchell will walk away from the NRL, saying he doesn't know if he has any interest in playing the game anymore.

Mitchell admitted at the end of 2023 he considered walking away from the game as he was mentally drained. "I just think mentally it was definitely draining. It was getting to a point where rugby league wasn't enjoyable," Mitchell told Nine News before the 2024 season got underway. "It was a conversation I had to have with my family and see where I was at in life and if I could potentially keep doing this (playing rugby league).

"Is it fun anymore? Can I keep putting up with people? It is what it is, but I couldn't go out of this game knowing that I didn't go out on my own terms."

But the latest reports are that Mitchell is committed to turning things around at the club. The fullback was spotted working hard at training this week and is understood to be excited by the opportunity to mentor his replacement Jye Gray.

Souths have also barred Mitchell from heading out to his farm in Taree during his ban, with the 26-year-old reportedly told the club he intends to be at every training session for the duration of the suspension. Brent Read reported on NRL 360 this week: “There’s speculation that Latrell’s over footy, but one thing that came out of the meeting was that Latrell is committed to the club, committed to rugby league and committed to getting back to the Latrell Mitchell that helps the footy club be successful.

“They reached the point where even people close to Latrell is telling him that things need to change. What happened on the weekend wasn’t good enough, and it wasn’t acceptable and I think that’s a change in that camp as I don’t think we’ve heard that out of that camp before”.