South Sydney propane Tevita Tatola has warned the entire NRL of Latrell Mitchell’s impending return, declaring the superstar fullback looks “the strongest I’ve ever seen him”.
Mitchell has not played since the fifth round when he injured his hamstring and traveled to America for specialist treatment during the time, while his return was further delayed by a battle with COVID.
But the Rabbitohs will name him for their clash with Parramatta, with Tatola saying it’s been worth the wait with the 25-year-old looking in pristine condition.
If Mitchell looks as good against the Eels as Tatola has pointed out, it would also cause a massive state-of-home selection headache for NSW coach Brad Fittler.
“He looks good, he can walk very well in the park and he’s talking a lot at the moment,” Tatola told reporters.
“Everyone wants him and we look forward to seeing him play.
“He’s probably the energy bunny we need… we all really want him to go out and play with him again.”
The Blues’ regular left center has been covered by Jack Wighton and Matt Burton in Origin games one and two respectively and both shone, meaning Fittler would have a tough outing that would fit all three into the series decider lineup if Mitchell would prove his condition.
Stephen Crichton played right-center in game two and appears to be in danger of losing his spot after a quiet outing.
But at club level, Mitchell’s return is a huge boost for a Rabbitohs side that is quickly losing touch with the league’s elites and Eels back rower Isaiah Papali’i expects them to be happy to give Mitchell a win.
“They are going to play with a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Having Latrell back on the team is something they are really looking forward to.
“I’ve seen his Instagram, he’s been training hard and he’s looking good. I’m looking forward to taking on him.”
But Will Penisini, Parramatta’s young shooter, said he and his team-mates would not be impressed with the return of the South Sydney big man.
“We’re just focusing on ourselves at the moment,” he said.
“We’ve been up and down a bit this season, but we’re looking forward to the second half of the year.”
Meanwhile, Souths’ prop Tom Burgess said young halfback Lachlan Ilias was ready to perform after being unceremoniously hooked for 29 minutes in a 32-12 loss to St George Illawarra.
Souths’ coach Jason Demetriou has since said he still sees Ilias as the squad’s long-term halfback.
“He took it on the chin…he understood with Jason what he needed to work on and he’s clearly come in this week and it’s all right,” Burgess told reporters.
“He just wanted to get better and he doesn’t dwell on it, he just wants to learn from it and take it as a lesson and move forward.
“People forget he’s probably in his first full year as a halfback.”