Latrell Mitchell copped plenty of flak for driving back home to Taree, in northern New South Wales, just two days before an away game against the Brisbane Broncos.
Former Roosters teammate and now NRL analyst Cooper Cronk was particularly scathing of the new Rabbitohs fullback, insisting he should be working on his fitness and putting in extra measures for his new club.
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Mitchell used a day off from training to make the trip to his hometown, a trip Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett was happy for him to take.
But after only playing 55 minutes in his new position at fullback in round one, Cronk went on Fox League to publicly suggest Mitchell should be spending more time working on his fitness.
“If I’m being completely honest at this time of year I’m not happy with Latrell taking time away,” he said.
“He’s come to a new club, they’re in a program where he was taken off after 55 or 56 minutes trying to manage his load, so any time away form the game should be spent on fast-tracking his aerobic capacity so he’s able to produce eight out of 10 performances for the Rabbitohs as soon as he can.”
Mitchell hit back at the criticism on Instagram, claiming "opinionated people need to keep their comments to themselves".
"I wonder if former teammate and NRL legend knew the real reason I took a trip up the highway," Mitchell wrote.
It's since been revealed by the Daily Telegraph that the real reason for the fullback's return home was to bring his pregnant partner Brielle back to her family to escape coronavirus.
Mitchell was understood to be worried about the threat of coronavirus and decided that family in Taree was a better environment for his partner, who is 38 weeks pregnant.
The selfless gesture from Mitchell makes Cronk's criticism look harsh but the Rabbitohs fullback was back in the firing line after a poor showing against the Broncos on Friday night.
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An underwhelming display against the Broncos prompted Phil Gould to claim the South Sydney recruit wasn't ready to play NRL let alone wear the No.1 jersey.
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett admitted he may have to axe Mitchell at fullback for next week's blockbuster clash against former club Sydney Roosters after the NSW representative failed to shine for the second straight match in his new position.
Mitchell showed flashes of brilliance but was ultimately shifted back to the centres with Alex Johnston finishing the game in the custodian role in their 22-18 second round loss to Brisbane on Friday night.
Bennett admitted it may be a sign of things to come.
"We'll sit down and have a think about it," Bennett said when asked if Mitchell may revert back to his regular centre spot against the Tri-Colours.
However, Gould was more forthright about Mitchell after watching the 22-year-old manage just 74m from seven runs - along with two errors - against Brisbane.
Indeed Gould didn't hold back, claiming Mitchell had been found wanting after leaving the star-studded Roosters in the off-season.
"I don't think he understands what it takes to be a great footballer," he told Nine Network.
"He's a wonderful talent, but it's the old adage - does the player make the team or does the team make the player?
"He is of no value to this team the way he is at the moment.
"He hasn't got the knowledge to play fullback. He hasn't got the intensity to play fullback so Latrell is on a real learning curve."