Mitchell to remain Souths' No.1 in NRL

Scott Bailey
Latrell Mitchell is expected to retain his place at fullback when South Sydney return to NRL action

South Sydney will persist with Latrell Mitchell at fullback when the NRL resumes with the star recruit to stay put despite the absence of James Roberts.

Souths players maintained their support of Roberts on Wednesday after the NSW State of Origin centre checked himself into a rehabilitation facility for personal reasons.

Hooker Damien Cook lauded Roberts' efforts to reach out for help and hoped he would take whatever time required before returning to football.

His absence has posed questions around the make-up of the Rabbitohs' backline.

There had been some thought that Mitchell could revert to centre, where he won two premierships at the Sydney Roosters, to fill Roberts' usual role.

That would allow Alex Johnston to play fullback, after the regular Rabbitohs custodian from previous years started the season on the bench.

But Mitchell has continued to train at the back and Cook indicated he would stay at No.1 when the season resumes on May 28.

"From what I have seen this week Latrell will be doing all the stuff at fullback," Cook said.

"That's where he will be.

"I really believe he's going to be a great fullback for us."

Mitchell has been eased into the No.1 role at Souths, who are aware he is going to take time to adapt.

The 22-year-old made just 10 runs in the first two games of the season and is yet to break the line.

But coach Wayne Bennett has often pointed at how he turned Darren Lockyer from one of the game's elite fullbacks to its best five-eighth at Brisbane.

Souths' other option is to move Johnston onto the wing, with Dane Gagai to shift to the centres for Roberts if he isn't back for the season resumption.

Cook said the Rabbitohs were willing to give Roberts as long as required with many people struggling with a lack of routine and structure during the COVID-19 shutdown.

"I'm very proud of James on what he has done," Cook said.

"He realised the situation he was in and reached out for help.

"As a mate, I am not too worried about James Roberts the football player at the moment.

"He can take all the time he needs and once he comes back he will be welcome with open arms."