Latrell Mitchell under fire as worrying issue comes to light for Souths

The South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback has been criticised for his inability to start games strongly.

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here in action for the Rabbitohs against the Storm.
Latrell Mitchell hasn't been able to inject himself into games early this year. Image: Getty/Fox Sports

South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has refused to blame Latrell Mitchell for their tame performance against Melbourne, but conceded his star fullback needs to inject himself into games earlier. Mitchell was virtually unsighted in the first half at Accor Stadium on Friday night as the Storm won 18-10.

Mitchell had just four carries for 34 metres before half-time, but he clicked into gear as the game went on. The fullback set up a try for Campbell Graham when he managed to find an overlap on the hour mark, getting the Rabbitohs to within eight points of the Storm.

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However Mitchell and his South Sydney teammates struggled to pierce a resolute Storm defence. While Mitchell is one of the NRL's most exciting players when in full flight, the knock on him throughout his career has been his inability to find the ball enough and inject himself into the game.

Speaking in his post-match press conference, Demetriou admitted he would like to see Mitchell start marshalling the troops earlier in the game, but said it was Souths' defence that cost them against Melbourne. "I thought the back end of the first half he started getting himself in the game a bit more," he said.

"I thought across the board we were off the pace a little bit. (Mitchell) probably needs to find his way into the game a bit earlier but it's not about our attack. It's about our defence."

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here during South Sydney's loss to the Storm.
Latrell Mitchell looks on during South Sydney's loss to the Storm. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Mitchell came close to scoring a try late in the game, but had his run halted inside the 10m zone as the Storm held on for the win. It was a similar story in round two when some late Mitchell magic got Souths within striking distance against the Panthers, only for their comeback to fall short.

“Mitchell’s best moments this year have come right at the end of games,” Dan Ginnane said in commentary for Fox Sports. “The pass against the Roosters, the pass against the Panthers to give his side one last shot in those matches. He has had a much more influential second half.”

Gorden Tallis had earlier asked “when does Latrell just turn the engine over?” in reference to his slow starts. And fans were also critical of Mitchell's ability to start strong and set the tone for his side.

South Sydney's defence the worry for Jason Demetriou

The Rabbitohs allowed the Storm to roll 71 metres upfield in the set before their first try, with their lack of defensive line speed causing concerns. Souths then conceded back-to-back penalties and invited Melbourne to bag a second before the half-time break.

The third and final try came on the back of two quick line breaks down the Storm's left side only minutes after half-time. "Their three tries all came from long distance where we turned the ball over," Demetriou said. "There are just periods where we're switching off. We're making life hard for ourselves."

Captain Cameron Murray denied the fact his side were missing five middle forwards was the problem. "We've got good depth here at the club," he said.

"We always speak about next-man-up mentality and having confidence in everyone in our top 30. I just thought we didn't really turn up today."

with AAP

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