‘100 per cent’: Mitchell up for Origin if he avoids ban

Scott Bailey |

Latrell Mitchell was sent to the sin bin during Souths’ drought-busting win over Parramatta.
Latrell Mitchell was sent to the sin bin during Souths’ drought-busting win over Parramatta.

Latrell Mitchell has confirmed he is available for NSW State of Origin selection if he avoids a ban for a hip-drop tackle in South Sydney’s 42-26 win over Parramatta.

The centre of debate over his Origin availability for the past month, Mitchell was sin-binned for a tackle on Eels centre Sean Russell just before halftime on Saturday.

The Rabbitohs superstar appeared perplexed when told by referee Chris Butler he would be binned, with the tackle not a typical hip-drop motion.

The incident hours before new Blues coach Michael Maguire is set to name a 20-man squad for the June 5 series opener at Accor Stadium in Sydney.

There had been suggestions earlier this year Mitchell would not make himself available for selection, in a bid to help save Souths’ ailing season.

But he and interim Rabbitohs coach Ben Hornby confirmed on Saturday night Mitchell is happy to be picked, as he battles to reclaim the left-centre spot for the Blues.

“All our players are available. If NSW want them, they’re there,” Hornby interjected when Mitchell was asked in the post-match press conference if he was available for selection.

“I’m expecting Latrell and Cody (Walker) to make the team. They’re good enough players and they’ve shown before they should make the team.

“I know who I wouldn’t want to be playing against if I was playing.”

Mitchell responded to Hornby’s comments, saying “100 per cent”.

Souths’ victory moved them equal with Wests Tigers on the bottom of the ladder with two wins, but behind on for-and-against.

It also compounded the Eels’ week from hell after coach Brad Arthur’s sacking, with Parramatta’s loss their seventh in eight games.

But it is Mitchell who will be grabbing the headlines.

Rabbitohs celebrate.
The Rabbitohs celebrate their first win in almost two months after beating the Eels. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS)

The Souths No.1 has not played for NSW since he was close to their best in 2021’s series win. Injuries ruled him out for the next two years.

The 26-year-old looks to be in a battle with Jesse Ramien, Zac Lomax and Matt Burton to be named at left centre.

Sin bin aside, he impressed while captaining South Sydney for the first time this year.

The No.1 made an early kick return of close to 25 metres, pulled off a one-on-one strip late and set up second-half tries with a towering bomb and grubberkick while filling in at five-eighth for a concussed Jack Wighton.

He also provided a cut-out ball for Alex Johnston to score his 190th career try in the first half, leaving the winger level with Billy Slater in second spot on the all-time charts.

The Rabbitohs led 22-0 after 28 minutes and looked set to put on a cricket score.

Parramatta were able to claw their way back to 22-16 early in the second half with Mitchell off the field as possession evened out.

But Souths were able to hold on for a win, with Mitchell’s play at five-eighth helping them kick clear again.

“We just made it too hard for ourselves to chase 22 points, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” Eels interim coach Trent Barrett said.

“We invited them into the games at the start with two unforced errors from our back five.”

It was in the equivalent match last year that the Rabbitohs’ season began to unravel: they entered Indigenous Round in first place before being beaten by the Eels.

In the 12 months since, they have won only six games and lost 18, going from top to bottom and losing coach Jason Demetriou along the way.