Latrell Mitchell suffers brutal setback before return to NRL

Pictured here is Latrell Mitchell looking on during a game for the Rabbitohs in the NRL.
Latrell Mitchell's long-awaited return to the NRL has hit another snag after the Rabbitohs superstar tested positive for Covid-19. Pic: Getty

South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell's long-awaited return to the NRL has hit another speed bump after the Rabbitohs fullback tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday.

Mitchell tore a hamstring in April and was ruled out for eight weeks, but the 24-year-old was expected to make his return to the NRL this week.

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The superstar fullback tweaked his knee in round four and underwent arthroscopic surgery, shaving off some cartilage with a six-to-eight week recovery time.

Mitchell only recently returned from America where he was undergoing treatment and rehabilitation for his knee injury.

The Rabbitohs said on Monday that Mitchell would be unavailable for selection this week due his positive test and that he will isolate from the team.

It means Mitchell's delayed return to the NRL fold could hamper his chances of making the NSW Blues' side for game two of State of Origin series in Perth on June 26.

South Sydney play St George Illawarra in round 15 before the Blues enter camp again for the second game of the series, giving Mitchell just one game to prove his fitness for Brad Fittler's side.

NSW are also without Tom Trbojevic for the State of Origin opener, meaning both centres from last year's victorious Blues side are missing for Game I on Wednesday night.

Between them the pair were involved in 10 of NSW's 15 tries in 2021, as the Blues piled on 94 points across the three games.

While Mitchell is some chance of being back for Game II, Trbojevic's season-ending shoulder surgery means the Blues lose his ability to float and pop up as a threat on both sides of the field in attack.

Blues back new-look centre pairing

The Blues have selected Jack Wighton and Kotoni Staggs to fill the hole left by Mitchell and Trbojevic, with skipper James Tedesco confident they'll slot in seamlessly.

"There wasn't much structure to what (Trbojevic) did, Tom just roamed free and did whatever he liked," Tedesco told AAP.

"So that won't be there obviously.

"For our team it's a big loss. He was the best player in the comp last year and the best for us too.

"But it doesn't really change my role or anyone else's too much. We still have to do the same thing.

"It's not a be-all-and-end-all ... The centres we picked are just more natural centres."

NSW are confident they can find other points of difference in their outside men.

Pictured left to right, Kotoni Staggs and NSW State of Origin teammate Jack Wighton.
Kotoni Staggs (L) and Jack Wighton are have been selected to start in the centres for NSW in the State of Origin opener. Pic: Getty

The powerful Staggs has become a resurgent force for Brisbane in recent months at right centre, clearly playing at his best with greater depth in the line.

Wighton already has Origin experience at centre and can bring a tougher running aspect to his game.

Five-eighth Jarome Luai is also confident Wighton can assist his attacking game, with the Raiders No.6 acting as an extra set of eyes and ears outside him.

"We've got plays that we want to put on those players," halfback Nathan Cleary said.

"Kotoni has shown what he can do this year so we need to get him the ball in the right place.

"Jack's has got a great boot, so having him and Romey (Luai) there adds another dynamic.

"You can do all the training and practice and whatnot but the game is always going to be different and as the game goes on and you adapt."

with AAP

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