NRL world erupts over Latrell Mitchell announcement in interview

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here revealing he was withdrawing from State of Origin contention.
Latrell Mitchell revealed he was withdrawing from State of Origin contention. Image: Fox League

NRL fans were left staggered on Saturday night after Latrell Mitchell announced in a post-match interview that he was withdrawing himself from State of Origin selection.

Mitchell made a successful return after 12 weeks on the sidelines as South Sydney thrashed Parramatta 30-12 in a huge upset.

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The Rabbitohs fullback was in brilliant form as he helped his side pull off the extraordinary win, immediately raising questions about whether he should be rushed straight back into Brad Fittler's NSW team for Origin III.

But Mitchell answered the questions in emphatic fashion as he revealed that he's withdrawing himself from contention in order to focus on Souths.

"I think I'm going to shut those headlines down now, I'm going to pull myself out and worry about Souths and focus on myself," he said in an interview with Fox League.

"They've got a real good team there, NSW, and good luck to them and Burton in the centres.

"Give Crichton a go too. I really want to focus on South Sydney and getting myself right for the backend of the season."

Mitchell was arguably NSW's best player in the 2021 Origin series, but missed the opening two games this year due to injury.

Matt Burton starred in his debut in the centres in Game II, while Jack Wighton will most likely come back into the side in the other centre spot after missing the second game with Covid.

Stephen Crichton started in the centres in place of Wighton in Game II, but might have to settle with being relegated back to the bench for the series decider after wearing the No.14 jersey in Game I.

Crichton might also miss out entirely, with Fittler choosing to carry two hookers in Api Koroisau and Damien Cook in NSW's 44-12 thrashing of Queensland in Perth.

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here in action for South Sydney against Parramatta.
Latrell Mitchell in action for South Sydney against Parramatta. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

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Cook hailed Mitchell for his selfless call to rule himself out of Origin contention.

"I'm really proud of him," said Cook, who has played with Mitchell in seven Origin games.

"All the work he's done the last 12 weeks to get himself right and now to put South Sydney first, it's great work from him."

Playing his first game since injuring his hamstring in round five, Mitchell focused more on getting through the 80 minutes unscathed than putting on a rugby league masterclass.

When the game was in the balance, Alex Johnston put his hand up for yardage carries more often than Mitchell, while the halves took on the vast majority of playmaking duties.

Mitchell did break through the line to ignite the play that put the result beyond doubt in the 65th minute.

Latrell Mitchell, pictured here in action for NSW in the 2021 State of Origin series.
Latrell Mitchell starred for NSW in the 2021 State of Origin series. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

And coming off the back of a hefty loss to St George Illawarra - in which they conceded 32 points in 30 minutes - the Rabbitohs took confidence from Mitchell's inclusion as they regained composure in attack.

Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said he was pleased with Mitchell's decision.

"It shows a fair commitment from him to his teammates and to his club that he wants to perform here," he said.

"It shows a bit of respect to the Blues as well; after a great performance (in game two), he's confident that those guys can get the job done."

Demetriou said his fullback was in a good position to build on his game in the coming weeks.

"He's in better shape than he was in round two when he came back (from suspension)," Demetriou said.

"He's coming back in round 16 when every bloke out there has played half a season. They're battle-hardened and they're a lot fitter and used to the game.

"For him to come back and see out the 80 was pretty good."

with AAP

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