Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has been dealt a fresh blow, with reports Latrell Mitchell is set to withdraw from Australia's squad for the end-of-season Tests due to a hand injury that may require surgery. It's understood Mitchell played through the pain of the injury he suffered in the NRL round 22 win over the Wests Tigers.
Veteran Daily Telegraph league reporter Phil Rothfield says Mitchell is expected to inform Meninga of his decision to withdraw from the Kangaroos squad on Tuesday, with the fullback keen to get the issue sorted as soon as possible, rather than risk further injury. Nine's Michael Chammas also revealed details of Mitchell's injury on 100% Footy on Monday night.
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"He's meeting with the surgeon tomorrow (Tuesday), it's not clear whether he requires surgery just yet but if he doesn't require surgery he needs to rest it because the club said he's risking a similar injury to Angus Crichton a couple of years ago which required his middle finger being amputated," Chammas said. "So Latrell Mitchell, my understanding is he will not feature for Australia in the end of season Test series."
Latrell Mitchell will be unavailable for the Kangaroos next month, opting to undergo immediate surgery on a hand injury he carried through the end of the season (via @BuzzRothfield). Sounding like it won’t affect his 2024 preseason for the Rabbitohs
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) September 11, 2023
The superstar fullback had a an injury-plagued 2023 after being ruled out of the State of Origin series with a calf injury that also saw him miss a large chunk of South Sydney's season. His return didn't go to plan as the Rabbitohs became the first team in the NRL era to miss the finals after leading the comp as late as round 12.
Mitchell's season also ended early with a suspension, while the club was embroiled in turmoil after the exit of assistant coach Sam Burgess, following reports he took exception to coach Jason Demetriou giving Mitchell and Cody Walker preferential treatment. Mitchell also found himself at the centre of a shocking controversy involving Rodney Churchill - the son of Rabbitohs legend Clive Churchill - who referred to the star fullback as a "cancer" on the club.
Latrell Mitchell was 'keen' to play in Kangaroos Tests
Despite all the drama around the 26-year-old and the club, Meninga revealed last week that he'd spoken to Mitchell and been told he was "keen" to play for Australia in the Tests against Samoa and New Zealand in October. “I’ve had a chat to Latrell to see where he is at in terms of his life more than anything else,” Meninga told SEN. “He has been knocked around. I’m a fan of Latrell’s. I’ve had a good conversation with him and he is keen to put the green and gold jersey on.”
With surgery set to rule Mitchell out and Jack Wighton having announced his retirement from rep footy - albeit reports he may be considering a backflip on that call - it would leave Meninga without his two starting centres for last year's World Cup triumph. Complicating matters further for the Kangaroos is the uncertainty around one of Meninga's other options at centre, Valentine Holmes.
The Cowboys and Maroons star is under investigation from the NRL integrity unit over a social media post that contained an image of him with a bag of white powder in his mouth. It is not known what the substance is and there is no implication of wrongdoing on Holmes' part.
"The North Queensland Cowboys are aware of a photo posted to social media by a Cowboys player this morning," the club said in a statement on Sunday. "The club is conducting an investigation as well as assisting the NRL Integrity Unit. "The Cowboys will make no further comment until the investigations are completed."
Holmes uploaded the photo to his own Instagram account before deleting it. The 28-year-old represented Australia during last year's Rugby League World Cup and was also part of the Queensland State of Origin side which won the 2023 series. He sat out the Cowboys' final four games of this season due to suspension as the club missed out on a place in the finals.
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