Latrell Mitchell’s mother Patricia has shared the heartache behind a two-month-long struggle for her son.
The 22-year-old was dropped for State of Origin II after a below-par performance in the opening game of the series.
He decamped for hometown Taree, missing one game for the Roosters, before returning to the field on Sunday.
He scored two tries in a big win, but the decision had already been made: he was out of the squad.
Twenty-four hours later a Nine News report shed light on Mitchell’s ‘secret struggle’.
“His mother Patricia has revealed over the past two months, Latrell has had to deal with the deaths of two aunties, a cousin and a great uncle,” Nine’s Danny Weidler reported.
NRL #EXCLUSIVE: Latrell Mitchell's dumping from the @NSWRL has left many fans scratching their heads, and now his mother reveals the personal tragedy which led up to his shock omission. @Danny_Weidler #9News pic.twitter.com/iOyEFe9TUv— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) June 17, 2019
Patricia said in a statement: “Latrell has been dealing with this the best that he can but this will affect any young person, as you could imagine.”
Mitchell and his brother Lionel were also allegedly racially abused at a pub in April, according to their mother.
Nine News reports Lionel has been charged with assault over an incident on the night.
“This has really affected Latrell. He has never had to deal with anything like this,” she told Nine News.
NSW captain Boyd Cordner has vowed to reach out to Mitchell.
The Blues arrived in Perth to begin preparations for the must-win clash on Sunday armed with a new-look side with seven changes from game one.
"It's obviously a bit surprising but as soon as I (had) seen the team, you can see it's a very strong squad," Cordner said on Monday.
"(It) obviously gives you confidence straight away that we can come over here and be able to get the job done."
Sydney Roosters centre Mitchell was easily the most notable omission, and was at the forefront of Cordner's mind when the team touched down.
The Roosters skipper briefly spoke with club teammates Mitchell and Angus Crichton before leaving Sydney, but will do so again through the week.
"It's more disappointing for them. Obviously being teammates, it's hard to see them go through that," Cordner said.
"It's obviously hard to take so I didn't want to crowd them too much.
"They've got to have time to process it all. But I just said to know I'm thinking of them and I'll probably speak to them throughout the week."
Cordner denied being aware of Mitchell's axing, but backed the Kangaroos incumbent to use his disappointment as motivational fuel.
"That's Freddie's (coach Brad Fittler's) call and the coaching staff. I had no say in it at all," Cordner said.
"(Mitchell will) have a lot of people around him. But I'll make sure I get around to him and just to see how he's going.
"I think it'll fire him up. Knowing Latrell, anything like this, or if it's a challenge or anything like that, he always stands up. He'll use this as motivation for sure."
Recalled five-eighth James Maloney sympathised for Mitchell, who leads the NRL in points and is third in tries.
"It's a harsh environment, State of Origin. Decisions are made on one-off performances," Maloney said.
"At the end of the day, we've got a really good coach and selection panel and they know what's going on. They know what's best. We'll back the guys that are there."