Latrell Mitchell suffers fresh blow as top NRL rivals firm for State of Origin berths

The South Sydney fullback's suspension comes at the worst time for his NSW chances.

We're halfway through Latrell Mitchell's suspension - and just as we predicted he's fallen way down the pecking order for State of Origin selection. With Souths having a bye over the weekend, Mitchell has now missed two weeks of a month-long stint on the sidelines for elbowing Shaun Johnson in the face.

While many had the Rabbitohs fullback in their predicted NSW teams at the start of the year (most picking him at centre), he's fallen way off the radar in recent weeks. Mitchell's suspension comes at a crucial time when all of his top NRL rivals are staking their cases for State of Origin selection.

The NSW backline appears to be taking shape, and a number of contenders produced big performances over the weekend. Zac Lomax put in another sparkling display for the Dragons and would seemingly be firming for a spot on the wing for NSW.

Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic and Zac Lomax.
Latrell Mitchell has fallen way down the pecking order behind the likes of Tom Trbojevic and Zac Lomax. Image: Getty

Tom Trbojevic scored two tries and was immense for Manly against the Titans, and appears destined to win a Blues jersey at either fullback or centre. Stephen Crichton and Josh Addo-Carr also scored for the Bulldogs in their thrashing of the Knights, while Dylan Edwards and Brian To'o were solid as ever in Penrith's win over the Tigers.

If the NSW team was picked today, it would likely feature Edwards at fullback, Trbojevic and Crichton in the centres and Lomax, To'o and Addo-Carr fighting it out for two of the wing spots. Tellingly, Mitchell has fallen way out of the conversation and will be up against it to win back his Blues jersey once he returns from suspension.

Stephen Crichton in action for the Bulldogs.
Stephen Crichton would seemingly be a lock for one of the NSW centre spots.

The Souths fullback will only have three games to impress NSW coach Michael Maguire before the team for Game I is picked. But at this rate he might have already cost himself a spot in what shapes as a new-look side for the Blues.

Mitchell hasn't played Origin since 2021, but started the year in solid enough form that had many picking him in the centres. But the quality of NSW fullbacks and centres running around in the NRL means his ill-discipline will likely cost him.

Josh Addo-Carr.
Josh Addo-Carr has been in blistering form over the last few weeks.


Michael Maguire's telling comments about Latrell Mitchell

Edwards, Trbojevic, James Tedesco and Ryan Papenhuyzen are all in front of him in the fullback stakes, while centres Crichton, Bradman Best, Kotoni Staggs and Izack Tago are all banging down the door for selection as well. Speaking last week about the possibility of picking Mitchell, coach Maguire didn't exactly give a glowing endorsement.

“Everyone knows the capabilities of Latrell, but it’s about making sure he is in the right headspace,” Maguire said at the official launch of the Origin series in Melbourne. “At the moment, one thing I know is that in big games, you need your focus right about where you are going.

“Souths are going through a tough period, but Latrell has a chance to bunker down and really help the NSW team. He has another couple of months where he can put himself into that shape, but Origin games are up there with the biggest games of your life.

“I want to see that focus from all the players, making sure they are in a good headspace and feeling good about where they are. That helps the make-up of your team. We need all our guys to be playing at their best, including Latrell.”

A left-field possibility is that Mitchell might be switched to five-eighth at Souths, which Alex McKinnon floated last week. Nicho Hynes and Mitchell Moses are the leading contenders to join Nathan Cleary in the halves for NSW, but if Mitchell plays the house down as a five-eighth, could we see him in the No.6 jersey for the Blues?