Latrell Mitchell in huge captaincy development in final audition for State of Origin spot

Ben Hornby has handed his fullback the captaincy for the Rabbitohs' clash with Parramatta.

Latrell Mitchell will captain the Rabbitohs on Saturday night against the Eels in his final audition for a spot in Michael Maguire's NSW side. Cody Walker has been skippering the Bunnies in the absence of regular captain Cameron Murray, but the five-eighth has gone down with a calf injury and will miss the clash with Parramatta.

That means Mitchell has been handed the captaincy by interim Souths coach Ben Hornby in the latest chapter in the saga surrounding the much-maligned fullback. Mitchell was been widely criticised over the last 12 months over his lack of involvement and effort for a Rabbitohs side who have plummeted to the bottom of the NRL ladder.

Latrell Mitchell in action for the Rabbitohs.
Latrell Mitchell has been handed the Rabbitohs captaincy for his final State of audition. Image: Getty

Calls grew louder this week for Hornby to shift Mitchell to centre or five-eighth, but the rookie coach stuck with him at fullback and moved Jack Wighton to No.6 instead. As well as resisting calls to axe Mitchell from fullback - where he doesn't put in as much commitment as the game's other leading No.1s - Hornby has also handed him the captaincy against the Eels.

Hornby had little choice but to go with Mitchell as skipper, although Wighton, Damien Cook, Jai Arrow and Alex Johnston would have been viable options. Mitchell has played two games since returning from a three-match suspension, and although he's had flashes of brilliance he has failed to get involved as much as the Rabbitohs need.

Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker.
Latrell Mitchell will captain Souths with Cody Walker out injured. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Saturday night's game against the Eels will serve as Mitchell's last chance to impress Maguire before the NSW team is named on Sunday night. Brad Fittler and Paul Gallen have both said they'd pick Mitchell at centre for the Blues, but the Daily Telegraph is reporting that he's likely to be overlooked.

According to the report, Mitchell has fallen out of favour because he was considering withdrawing from Origin contention earlier this month. Mitchell is said to have had a change of heart, but is unlikely to be picked ahead of the likes of Stephen Crichton, Jesse Ramien and Joseph Suaalii.

Gallen told Wide Wide of Sports earlier this week that he'd be picking Mitchell if he was in Maguire's shoes. "I just think we need his x-factor. At Origin level you need players who can make something happen out of nothing and we all know Latrell has that rare quality," he wrote.

"He's only played seven games this year and he's scored five tries - clearly he's a game-breaker. The other important factor is he's been there before and the Blues haven't won a series since he last played for them."

Meanwhile, Alex McKinnon has made the staggering call that he'd pick Mitchell on the bench. "There’s now one non-negotiable, Latrell Mitchell has to be in the team at Accor Stadium," McKinnon told Fox Sports.

"Whether that’s starting at left centre, or - and it sounds crazy - but playing him off the bench. He has been impressive since returning from his suspension. He can play centre, wing, five-eighth and fullback and he has to be in the 17 players to represent the sky blue team.

"Queensland have always have X-factor on the bench. They’ve in the past picked Kalyn Ponga and Daly Cherry-Evans on the pine. There’d be nothing scarier for Billy Slater and Queensland than seeing Latrell Mitchell’s name on the team list ahead of Game I."