Latrell Mitchell will play his first game for South Sydney since Round 12 on Friday night after the superstar fullback was named to take on the Wests Tigers on Tuesday. Mitchell has missed the Rabbitohs' last seven games due to a calf injury, watching on from the sidelines as his side have fallen out of the top eight.
The Rabbitohs sit ninth on the ladder heading into round 22, with 10 wins and nine losses but a marginally worse points differential than the eighth-placed Eels. However they will receive a huge boost with Mitchell's return, with the fullback said to be a certain starter despite also being named last week before a late withdrawal.
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The fullback's seven-game absence has exposed his defensive worth to the Rabbitohs. Souths have conceded more points in that seven-game span than in their 12 games with Mitchell to begin the season. The Rabbitohs have allowed an average of 15.6 points with Mitchell in the side, compared to 29.4 without him.
Souths fell out of the top eight for the first time since round six with last week's 36-20 loss to the Broncos. It marked the fourth time in five games the Rabbitohs leaked more than 30 points.
"(Mitchell) bounced into training this morning knowing that after a couple of months he'll be back on the field," teammate Cameron Murray said on Monday. "He's really excited and that energy is infectious."
Souths are aware they must improve on last week's 66 per cent completion rate and 35 missed tackles, otherwise Mitchell will have limited room to shine on his return. "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. "So we've got to make sure that we do our job first to unleash Trell and what he's capable of."
South Sydney can't wait to have Latrell Mitchell back
Speaking after their loss to the Broncos, coach Jason Demetriou admitted Mitchell's return couldn't come soon enough. Describing his side's defensive efforts as 'embarrassing', Demetriou said: "We are lacking a bit of accountability and a bit of intent, and Latrell brings that.
"Our numbers defensively when he plays are a lot better than when he doesn't play. Tonight, that is on the playing group. Latrell will bring what he brings when he comes back next week but there are 16 other blokes that have got to find a better performance.
"I know he is ready to go. It is just a matter of getting more load into his calf and making sure that of next week and onwards his calf is ready to go. The decision (to delay Mitchell's return) was made and it was the right one.
Demetriou said of his team's fall down the ladder: "There are process things that we know aren't in our system that we are doing. There were points where we wanted to fight. Blokes like (second-rower) Jai Arrow were absolutely ripping in (against Brisbane) and giving everything but we had too many blokes that weren't good teammates.
"Too many of them weren't even close to rating what is an acceptable level at NRL. Our job through the week is to find out why and fix it, because we need to fix it quick. I am obviously not happy with the points we are leaking but a few weeks ago when we went to New Zealand we had great defensive resolve (in a 28-6 win), one of our best performances of the season."
Great line up. Go the Rabbitohs and get the win this week. 👍❤️💚❤️💚❤️💥💥
— Karina Haase (@KarinaHaase) July 25, 2023
The face of rugby league is back.
— OzDeebo (@DwnUnderOutlaw) July 25, 2023
Trelly is back baby!
— Harry James (@harry_hillis) July 25, 2023
Excited for the team list ..(don’t drop taane) ❤️💚
— U Feer Gosby (@wheresthatcat) July 24, 2023
Bloody love this insight mate
— Todd G (@ToddyGreaser) July 25, 2023
Trell v Tigers is scary 🔥
— The Cast Patrol (@thecastpatrol) July 25, 2023
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