Ben Hornby makes eye-opening admission about Latrell Mitchell amid Jye Gray snub

Hornby insists Mitchell won't be shifting to the centres at club level.

Latrell Mitchell starred for NSW in the centres last week which again raised questions about whether that is his best position. Playing at centre, the Souths star set up winger Brian To'o and crashed over for a try of his own in a dominant display for the Blues.

His intimidating presence in defence also helped strengthen NSW's edges in what was a complete performance. Despite his incredible display in the centres, Ben Hornby says he has no plan to move him out of the Bunnies No.1 role despite Jye Gray returning from injury and being ready to slot in at fullback.

Pictured L-R: Ben Hornby, Latrell Mitchell and right Jye Gray
Ben Hornby insists Latrell Mitchell won't be moved to centre to accommodate the return of Jye Gray. Image: Getty

Gray suffered a syndesmosis injury in the Bunnies' round nine loss to the Panthers after an ugly hip-drop tackle. The injury was a cruel blow for the 20-year-old who excelled at fullback in the absence of Mitchell with many league critics calling for him to remain the Souths No.1 even after Mitchell returned from a three-match ban for elbowing Shaun Johnson in the face.

Hornby ended up not having that headache with Gray's injury seeing Mitchell slot back into the fullback role and since then he has showcased why he was given that spot in the first place. Souths are going for their fifth straight win against Parramatta on Thursday night and Mitchell has been involved in almost everything good in that period.

But with Gray now returning from injury, questions have again been raised about whether he should return to fullback, with Mitchell shifting to the centres. But Gray finds himself in the NSW Cup this weekend and Hornby says a move to centre for Mitchell to accommodate the young fullback is not on the cards. “Latrell is our best fullback, it’s that simple,” Hornby told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“If you look at his stats since he came back from suspension, they would be equal – if not better – than any other fullback in the comp. We have to look at what he’s doing in that position, not just centre. He can pop up everywhere at fullback and he’s been having three and four try involvements every game since his comeback."

Since returning from suspension Mitchell has scored five tries and racked up 10 try assists in just five games. And Souths forward Keaon Koloamatangi believes he is the best player in the NRL "by far" when he's on. “You see what Trell did last Wednesday, and what he has done since he’s come back from suspension. When he’s ‘on’, he’s the best player in the comp by far," he said. "He brings us that aura and confidence. I don’t think there is any other fullback in the comp like him. He’s our X-factor.”

NSW coach Michael Maguire says a couple of areas of Latrell Mitchell's game have not been given the credit they deserve after the 27-year-old starred in his return to the Origin arena for Game 2. Mitchell's defence has been heavily criticised while playing fullback for the Rabbitohs but in the centres for the Blues he was outstanding.

It was widely expected that the Maroons would target Mitchell in Game 2, with many identifying him as a weak link in the Blues' defence but he shut down the likes of Reece Walsh and Valentine Holmes with ease. On more than one occasion he pushed up to deliver strong hits and the Blues coach believes he didn't get enough praise for his defensive efforts.


“One thing Latrell probably isn’t credited for as he doesn’t play as much centre these days, is his defence,” Maguire said on the Matty Johns Podcast. “I thought he was actually really strong defensively out on the edge. To be able to have those two boys (Mitchell and Stephen Crichton) out there on the edges. But Latrell has that presence, we all know that. And it is nice to see he’s got a real smile on his face and has got that swagger back and is enjoying his football.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: Latrell Mitchell of the Blues celebrates scoring a try during game two of the men's State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 26, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Latrell Mitchell has been on fire since returning from his three-match suspension.