Latrell Mitchell has opened up on his tumultuous NRL season with the Rabbitohs and how his injury layoff and the departure of Sam Burgess left him completely rattled. The fullback suffered a calf injury ahead of the first State of Origin game, and missed the next 10 weeks as he struggled to get back on the field.
When he did finally return he was unable to help Souths make the finals, and copped plenty of criticism for some lacklustre performances. With just two rounds remaining in the regular season, Burgess abruptly left his role as assistant coach after calling out some so-called 'preferential treatment' being shown to Mitchell and Cody Walker from head coach Jason Demetriou.
"It rattled me, I tell you what," Mitchell said on the 'Let's Trot' podcast with former Rabbitohs teammate Josh Mansour on Wednesday. "You try and say it didn't affect you as a person (but) it's started to drip into your personal life and footy. If you're not happy on the field, you're never going to perform on (it)."
The Rabbitohs won just two of the seven games that Mitchell missed, but they didn't fare much better when he returned. They became the first team ever to miss out on the finals after leading as late as round 11.
"It was just hard for me to come back and try and find that form again," he said. "It was 10 weeks too long (injured), where I wasn't looked after the way I should have been.
"(The idea) that, 'Oh it's all right, Latrell's back, we'll be right again, we'll win again', just the pressure of that got to me a little bit. But other than that I think we just lost that drive, that connection too, confidence."
But the tumultuous year has left the dual-premiership winner feeling hungrier than ever to help the Rabbitohs deliver their 22nd title in 2024. "Everything they've been able to sacrifice for me and give to me, I haven't delivered since I've been there in a sense where a comp is something everyone wants," he said. "To write my name in the books and maybe [win] a Clive Churchill along with that.”
Latrell Mitchell opens up on 'traumatic' court ordeal
The dramas took an ever greater turn when Mitchell and new South Sydney teammate Jack Wighton were charged in February for "fighting" outside a Canberra nightclub during celebrations for the latter's birthday. Charges were dropped earlier this month after the most senior police officer involved the arrests admitted he lied while testifying under oath.
After being found not guilty, Mitchell described the charges and ensuing trial as a "traumatic experience". He added on Wedneday: "It was a long 10 months, it just dragged on. I knew I was innocent the whole time and just trying to prove that I was a good person and trying to fake being happy for 10 months was pretty hard. I'm glad it's over.
"It's something that's been weighing on me for a long time and my family, probably my family moreso. Mental drag and just a ball-and-chain that I didn't need. I've got a lot of them hanging around. I'm happier now, I'm back to being Latrell Mitchell. I can't wipe the smile off my face."
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