South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell has officially withdrawn from the Origin III roster, urging NSW selectors not to overlook Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton for the decider.
Mitchell made an impressive comeback from a hamstring that had sidelined him for 12 weeks on Saturday night and immediately announced that he wanted to end speculation that he could return to Suncorp Stadium for the Blues on July 13.
“I think I’m going to stop those headlines now. I’m going to pull myself back and worry about Souths and focus on myself,” Mitchell told Fox League†
“They have a really good team there, NSW, and good luck to them and Burton in the centres. Give Crichton a chance too, make him bleed. I really want to focus on South Sydney and make myself good for the backend of the season .”
Mitchell was a key figure in NSW’s win in 2021 and would have been one of the first players selected for the first two Origins had he been fit.
Despite the Blues leveling the series with Queensland’s crushing 36-12 defeat in Perth last Sunday, the availability of Mitchell and Jack Wighton posed a selection headache for NSW coach Brad Fittler.
However, Mitchell said he didn’t feel good about coming onto the team after just one game for the Rabbitohs since round five, especially considering how well Burton and Crichton had played last weekend.
“I’m going to focus on South Sydney, focus on myself and make myself right,” he told ABC radio† “They’ve got some good guys there and they’ve played really well all year round, so let them go and see what happens.”
Mitchell, who started the game at fullback but also spent time in the centers when Campbell Graham went for an HIA, ran 142 yards with 16 moves and made six line breaks.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing rugby league again, going out with my friends and representing the South Sydney Rabbitohs,” said Mitchell.
“I felt good out there. I think it will be two, three or four more games [before he is back to full fitness]† I’m not here to break records, I’m here to play for South Sydney and play my style of footy. I know where to be and I will get there.
“I’m really happy with the way I prepared myself and got myself to play. Twelve weeks is a really long time, but mentally I tore into it and I got it done. It’s just visible there .”
NSW hooker and Rabbitohs teammate Damien Cook said it was a selfless decision by Mitchell to withdraw from Origin roster.
“He was one of the stars of the series last year, along with Tom Trbojevic, and injuries hurt that, but it makes Freddy’s decision a lot easier, I’m sure of that,” Cook said.
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“For Latrell, with what he did tonight, to get himself out of that selection process, I’m really proud to be a senior player here.
“With all the work he’s put in over the last 12 weeks to get himself back on track and with South Sydney coming first, I’m really proud of him. He played great tonight and it’s just great to have him back .”
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said Mitchell’s decision was also a vote of confidence in the Blues side who have played the first two games.
“I think it shows a little bit of dedication from him to his team-mates and his club that he wants to perform here, but I think it also shows a little bit of respect for the Blues.
“After a great performance, he is confident those guys can get the job done.”
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