Latrell Mitchell captured in damning act that shows why Souths can't keep him at fullback

The Rabbitohs star was caught out of position on multiple occasions against the Eels.

Latrell Mitchell was brilliant with ball in hand against Parramatta on Thursday night, scoring a try and assisting two others. But some shocking efforts in defence proved the perfect example of why Souths can't afford to keep him at fullback.

Mitchell continued a brilliant purple patch of form as he tore up the Eels' defence, and scored a clever try when he got down low and slid over the line in slippery conditions. But the knock on Mitchell has always been his commitment and ability to stay involved for the whole 80 minutes.

He is often found out in defence and sometimes doesn't pop up where the game's elite fullbacks all do. And that was the case again on Thursday night when Mitchell gave up and started walking when he should have been busting his butt to try and help his teammates.

Latrell Mitchell in action for Souths against the Eels.
Latrell Mitchell was found out in defence against Parramatta. Image: AAP/Fox League

When Blaize Talagi sliced through to score the Eels' first try, Mitchell could be seen walking near the goalposts - way out of position. Talagi stepped back on the inside and should have come face-to-face with Mitchell, but the fullback had given up on the play.

Latrell Mitchelll, pictured here near the posts when Blaize Talagi cut back and scored.
Latrell Mitchell was walking near the posts when Blaize Talagi cut back and scored for Parramatta. Image: Channel 9

And it was the same in the second half when Bryce Cartwright scored under the posts off a grubber from Clint Gutherson. The Eels initially shifted the ball left and Mitchell followed, tracking across field. But when the Eels went back the other way, Mitchell didn't bother to turn and chase, and simply started walking again. When Gutherson kicked the ball through the line, Mitchell should have been there (or thereabouts) to try and prevent Cartwright from picking it up (watch in the video below).

On both occasions, Mitchell was found lacking in situations where the best fullbacks in the game would have continued running and put themselves in the right place at the right time. It didn't cost the Rabbitohs on Thursday night because of how bad the Eels played, but against the NRL's top teams Mitchell won't be so lucky.

There's no question he's been brilliant over the last month - both for Souths and NSW. But his defence is simply not good enough for a fullback at NRL level.

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here out of position when Bryce Cartwright scored for Parramatta.
Latrell Mitchell was also nowhere to be seen when Bryce Cartwright scored. Image: Fox League


His lack of effort in defence shows exactly why calls are continuing to mount for Souths to move Mitchell to the centres. He carved up Queensland in State of Origin 2 while playing centre for NSW, but wants to be a fullback at the Rabbitohs. With young gun Jye Gray waiting in the wings, Wayne Bennett might be forced to bite the bullet and axe Mitchell from his preferred position when he returns to Souths in 2025.

Earlier this week, Gorden Tallis labelled Mitchell the best centre in the world. He won two premierships at the Roosters while playing in the centres, but moved to Souths in 2020 to play fullback.

Leading journalist James Hooper pointed out on Wednesday that it was Bennett who brought Mitchell to Souths to play fullback and might not want to concede that move hasn't worked out. “I think what State of Origin showed us as well is that the time he has spent at fullback has improved his ball-playing out of sight – he’s so much silkier,” Hooper said on NRL 360.

“His presence on that edge was immediately causing concern for Queensland and it would be the same at cub level. He’s such a dominant figure. You know what he can do with the ball and he’s destructive when he runs. I think he’s better in the centres.

“Don’t forget Wayne was the one who developed him into a fullback as well. When he shifted across from the Chooks, he’d only been a centre until then. There was a lot of debate when he initially signed and began feeling his way as a fullback perhaps it wasn’t his best position. And then he really dominated and went on a run and made that grand final and so he solidified it. I would be thinking Wayne likes Latrell as a fullback.”