Mitchell thriving on attention from haters

·3-min read

Latrell Mitchell has declared that the extra spotlight on him this year has made him a better player, thriving on knowing even his haters are watching him closely.

Mitchell has developed into the closest thing the NRL has to box-office stardom, with the South Sydney fullback the most talked about man throughout the finals.

The at-time divisive figure is backing it up on the field, setting up 18 tries in 12 matches since his return after missing the last two finals series through injury and suspension.

And in an ominous warning for Penrith ahead of Saturday night's preliminary final, he welcomes the extra attention on the park as it only makes the Rabbitohs more dangerous.

Mitchell's 8-1 record in finals remains up there with the best in history, unbeaten in his last seven playoff matches.

"It's just the pressure-cooker moments I love," Mitchell said.

"It's what I thrive on. It's do-or-die as well.

"Everyone's at home and love or hate me I just do what I do.

"I know even my worst enemies are watching my games and that's the best part about it.

"That's for me to put a show on and entertain."

Mitchell said he had not always found it easy to embrace that pressure, before becoming his own man on joining Souths in 2020.

"I was a bit yellow I suppose when I was younger," Mitchell said.

"When I was 18 or 19 coming through it was a bit different. But now I have taken on board a role and it's made me the person I am today.

"A lot of off-field stuff has helped with what I am doing.

"I'm definitely at home here ... It's about family connection. And obviously the Indigenous ties here too. This community is raw and I love it."

Penrith players are well aware of the challenge Mitchell will bring.

Isaah Yeo remarked on Monday that his NSW State of Origin teammate was backing up his talk in recent weeks on the field.

Both Yeo and Nathan Cleary also stressed the importance of stopping Mitchell as a collective, rather than going one out to bring him down.

But if that involved piling men on the Bunnies No.1, Mitchell will welcome it.

"Hopefully they're not worried about my teammates then," Mitchell quipped.

"If I can take that off of the boys and put the pressure on myself then I'm happy to do so."

With Mitchell back in the second half of the season the likes of Cody Walker have thrived with extra space, while Cameron Murray is playing with more confidence and Lachlan Ilias' game has improved.

Hooker Damien Cook also said the difference was clear with extra options out of dummy-half.

"There's no doubt he draws defenders," Cook said.

"Latrell back holds some great shape there with Cody especially and also opens up that right side and gives it more of a threat."