Latrell Mitchell cops fresh blow as Jason Demetriou makes call on Souths fullback switch

Calls are increasing for the Rabbitohs to finally concede Mitchell is a better centre than fullback.

Souths coach Jason Demetriou has revealed he's considering moving Latrell Mitchell and that rookie Jye Gray has the chance to make the No.1 jersey his own. Gray produced a strong display on debut last weekend against Cronulla in the first game of Mitchell's three-match suspension.

Calls have been growing for the Rabbitohs to bite the bullet and concede that Mitchell is a better centre than fullback, and the emergence of Gray has given the club the perfect chance to move Mitchell. Discussing the situation on Tuesday, Demetriou admitted Mitchell could find himself in a different position - either centre or five-eighth - when his suspension ends.

Latrell Mitchell and Jason Demetriou.
Jason Demetriou has revealed he's considering moving Latrell Mitchell to centre. Image: Getty

“It’s Jye’s spot at the moment, and if he keeps playing well, he’s every chance to keep it,” Demetriou told the Sydney Morning Herald. “You never know in rugby league. Who is available in another two weeks’ time might be different to who is available now.

“I just want him to focus on each week. He’ll get a good prep going down to Melbourne, which will help. He’s obviously got speed, and he’s a real threat who can make a lot of metres for a little bloke. There’s more to come from him, and once he gets settled in, and we get more quality ball to him, he’ll be even better again.

“We said before the game he had earned the right to be here, and he should go out and enjoy it. One game was not going to define him. It’s just the start.”

Jye Gray.
Jye Gray in action for the Rabbitohs against Cronulla.

The Rabbitohs have a bye this week before crucial matches against the Storm and Panthers that will show the club how good Gray really is. The 20-year-old was impressive for the Rabbitohs against the Sharks last weekend, running for 172 metres from 15 carries and breaking seven tackles. He also produced an offload and 54 post-contact metres in a solid display.

Paul Gallen wants to see Latrell Mitchell moved to centre

On Monday, NRL great Paul Gallen joined a number of fans in calling for Mitchell to switch to centre so Gray can continue playing fullback. There's no doubt Mitchell is one of the most damaging fullbacks in the game when he is switched on and fully committed. But he has faced constant scrutiny for a perceived lack of effort ever since switching from the Roosters to Souths and changing positions from centre to fullback.


Mitchell doesn't seem to show up in the right spot as often as the game's elite fullbacks do, and he is often missing in defence when tries are scored. There have been calls for the past 18 months for Souths to switch Mitchell back to the centres, and the emergence of Gray could provide the perfect opportunity for the Rabbitohs to do exactly that.

"With Souths where they are at the moment, they need a lot of effort and that's one thing this kid (Gray) will bring. I think for them and the team and even for Latrell, it's a good idea for when he comes back," Gallen wrote in a column for Wide World of Sports on Monday. "When he does run into form slumps, you have a ready-made replacement in Latrell and you can put the kid back to reserve grade and give him a week off and bring him back. I think that's the best option for the Bunnies going forward."

But as Gallen highlighted, Mitchell's best position would be at left centre - where high-profile recruit Jack Wighton is playing. One of Mitchell or Wighton would have to switch to the right if Mitchell was to move to the centres.

Latrell Mitchell picks Souths over NSW in startling move

Despite the constant criticism he cops, Mitchell has always shown himself to be a team player. It would be no surprise if he moves to the right considering he's already shown his class by mentoring Gray at Souths training sessions and showing up for his teammates rather than shying away during his suspension.

It also emerged over the weekend that Mitchell, Cody Walker and Damien Cook opted to skip a 'secret' meeting that NSW coach Michael Maguire held with potential members of his Blues spine for State of Origin. Maguire invited a number of fullbacks, halves and hookers to NSW Blues headquarters at Sydney Olympic Park last Tuesday night, but the trio of Souths players decided not to attend so they could fully focus on trying to help their club turn around their nightmare start to the NRL season.

Saturday night's 34-22 loss to the Sharks saw the Rabbitohs slump to 1-5 on the season with their 16th loss in the last 21 games under coach Jason Demetriou. The under-fire coach has reportedly earned a stay of absence despite reports he would be sacked this week. It is now believed Rabbitohs officials will decide on Demetriou's future after games against the Panthers and Storm following a bye this weekend.