South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has revealed Latrell Mitchell's calf injury has been "fine for a few weeks", while also confirming Blake Taaffe is likely to leave the club. Taaffe has been deputising for Mitchell amid the fullback's lengthy absence with a calf injury.
But with Mitchell back on deck for Friday night's clash between the Rabbitohs and Tigers, Taaffe has been relegated to 18th man. The dynamic back was recently spotted meeting with Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo and football manager Phil Gould, and Demetriou admitted on Thursday that his days at Redfern are probably numbered.
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"We'd love Blake to stay but he's a first-grader and there are times you've got to spread your wings," Demetriou said. "That's the unfortunate side of being in a good team."
Taaffe is likely to slot straight in as Canterbury's No.1. The second-last placed Bulldogs have used a number of players at fullback this year, including Hayze Perham and Jake Avarillo.
Meanwhile, Demetriou said Mitchell is fit and raring to go against the Tigers despite a false start last week. The talisman fullback hasn't played since round 12 and was initially named to face the Broncos last Friday, before he was a late withdrawal as a precaution.
Souths head to Tamworth on Friday to face a Tigers side who are winless in their last seven games. Demetriou believes the extra rest will serve Mitchell well, admitting the injury has been 'fine' for a number of weeks.
"We made the decision to make sure we got that extra load into him and that he's firing on all cylinders," Demetriou said. "He's backed up a full week of training again and he came in on the weekend and did some extra work.
"The injury has been fine for a few weeks but we want him to be able to handle a whole 80 minutes and back up for another six, seven, eight weeks. I would've liked him back six weeks ago but he's ready to go. We've missed the energy he brings around the place."
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The Rabbitohs are now 10-9 on the season and have fallen out of the top eight. Their bid to seal a top-four finish has hampered by injuries and State of Origin call-ups.
But Demetriou said he was not worried about where his side stood ahead of a run home that features games against the Tigers, Cronulla, St George Illawarra, Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters. "I know what's in this changing room," Demetriou said.
"I'm really comfortable with what they can achieve. We have got to really knuckle down because we've got one more push to get over this little lull we're in. Once we get over that, the momentum will start again but we've got to be willing to work hard."
In the seven games that Mitchell has missed, Souths have conceded more points than in the 12 games he played to start the year. The Rabbitohs have allowed an average of 15.6 points with Mitchell in the team, but a whopping 29.4 without him.
"He's such a massive player in this comp, one of the best there is, and when we're playing our best footy then he's allowed to do his thing off the back of that," Damien Cook said this week. "So we've got to make sure that we do our job first to unleash 'Trell' and what he's capable of."
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