Latrell Mitchell has expressed his disappointment over the lack of NRL scouts who attended the Koori Knockout last weekend.
Over 160 teams of Indigenous rugby league players converged on the NSW South Coast to take part in the annual competition as it returned from a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.
'HELL OF A LOT': Ivan Cleary's huge admission about Phil Gould
Mitchell was joined by fellow NRL stars Cody Walker, Tyrell Sloan and Josh Addo-Carr in taking part in the tournament, but the vast majority of those who suited up for the 50th anniversary edition were amateurs.
But despite the range of unsigned talent on show, Mitchell said not a single scout from NRL clubs showed up.
"You need to start looking at the bigger picture and start planning for these things," said Mitchell, who represented runners-up Walgett Aboriginal Connection.
"A big part of the knockout is going and watching, and seeing what talent we have.
"It's pretty disappointing to see no NRL scout went down there and had a look.
"They should have been there knocking on the gate to get in."
Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton, who will link up with Mitchell in Australia's World Cup squad for the upcoming tournament in England, was similarly surprised.
"It's crazy," the Wiradjuri man said.
"Some of the best players in the NRL are Indigenous and you've got them all together in all age groups.
"There's no better place to pick them up."
Mal Meninga not concerned about Latrell Mitchell risk
Mitchell said the the Koori Knockout was the perfect chance for a hit-out before Australia's flight to England for the World Cup, which begins later this month.
But he said the significance of the tournament stretched beyond maintaining match fitness.
Grand final commitments with his former club the Roosters kept Mitchell from travelling to the 2018 and 2019 editions of the competition.
With South Sydney losing to the Panthers in the preliminary final this year, the fullback declared his return a highlight of the year.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) October 5, 2022
"It just brings that joy back into why we (play rugby league)," he said.
"We go there to put smiles on kids' faces and get around the old elders.
"For me, it was about bringing that pride and passion back for myself after a long year.
"It was four of the most enjoyable days of the year. I really enjoyed that part of it."
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga didn't attempt to prevent Mitchell from playing, despite the risk of injury in heading into the World Cup.
"There's no worries in representing mob and that's what it's about," Mitchell said.
"Mal saw me enjoying it. He was watching from home, he was telling me. I'm ready to go (for the World Cup)."
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) October 2, 2022
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.