Ben Hunt hits back at Andrew Johns over big State of Origin claim about Latrell Mitchell

Johns has taunted the Maroons in comments about the recalled Blues star.

Maroons hooker Ben Hunt has brushed aside suggestions from NSW State of Origin legend Andrew Johns that Latrell Mitchell's recall for the Blues has got in the heads of the Queensland players. Mitchell was left out of Michael Maguire's Blues side for the Game 1 defeat in Sydney after indifferent form with the Rabbitohs in the NRL that was compounded by a three-game suspension for a high tackle on Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson.

But the superstar Souths fullback returns to the Origin arena for the first time since 2021 after being named to replace the suspended Joseph Suaalii in the centres for NSW. Mitchell has never lost an Origin series he's been involved in with the Blues and he's been touted as a genuine X-factor as NSW look to extend their impressive record at the MCG and keep the series alive with a win in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The Blues have won four of the five matches played at Melbourne's iconic ground.

Pictured left to right, NSW Origin legend Andrew Johns, Maroons star Ben Hunt and Latrell Mitchell.
Maroons State of Origin star Ben Hunt has rubbished claims from Andrew Johns that Latrell Mitchell is in the heads of Queensland players. Pic: Getty

And Johns has identified Mitchell as the biggest threat to the Maroons, with the legendary former Blues halfback tipping him to target Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans and his opposite centre, Valentine Holmes, on the right side of Queensland's defence. "Daly Cherry-Evans is on top of his game, but good luck tackling Latrell," Johns said on the Sunday Footy Show.

“The right side of Queensland is a target. The gap between DCE and Holmes - that space between the halfback and centre - that’s where NSW will apply pressure with Angus (Crichton), Latrell, Dylan Edwards and Jarome (Luai) floating around. That will be the spot they target, especially with Latrell. He is NSW’s X-factor. Latrell is inside their heads, it is good.”

But Maroons hooker Hunt - who was one of Queensland's standouts in the Game 1 thumping of the 12-man Blues - rubbished the claims from Johns. The Queensland No.9 says his side have identified and discussed the dangers that Mitchell poses, as they would do with any key player. But Hunt says it would be silly of the Maroons to get too hung up on one player when there are a number of threats across the Blues squad.


"He hasn't got into our heads at all. We have done preparation on him, like you would on any good player," Hunt said. "There's a lot of guys in that team who are going to hurt us as well, so we can't just go into a State of Origin match completely worried about one player."

The Maroons concede that Mitchell's record at Origin level needs to be respected though, and they will need to shut him down early before he gets the chance to exert his influence on the contest. "He is a huge threat. We know what Latrell is capable of and what he has done in the Origin arena," Hunt added.

Recalled Blues star Latrell Mitchell has been touted as one of the biggest threats to the Maroons ahead of Origin Game 2. Pic: Getty
Recalled Blues star Latrell Mitchell has been touted as one of the biggest threats to the Maroons ahead of Origin Game 2. Pic: Getty

"We will have our hands pretty full trying to hang on to him, so we need to be very disciplined in the way we defend him. We have to defend him as a team because if we give him any bit of room he is going to hurt us. We need to defend really well. We have faith in Val to do his job. He has been playing Origin for a long time now and he will get out there and do his job."

Maroons five-eighth Tom Dearden agrees that Mitchell is a "massive threat" to the Maroons and that the best way to nullify him is to control possession and field position. The kicking game of Queensland and especially skipper Cherry-Evans was a huge difference between the sides in Game 1 and Dearden says starving Mitchell of opportunities will be key for his side in Game 2. "With the player Latrell is we have to focus on getting our game right and control possession. It will nullify his impact on the game."

with AAP