Rabbitohs reject Joey’s blunt smackdown
SOUTH Sydney has refuted suggestions Latrell Mitchell won't be a success at fullback, as the new recruit prepares to wear the No.1 jersey at Redfern.
Mitchell says he hopes to replicate hero Greg Inglis and "change the game" at fullback after making the move from the Roosters, where he won two premierships in the centres.
But rugby league legend Andrew Johns isn't convinced the 22-year-old is suited to the custodian role,
"He's only been there back training for about a month, but he's an out-and-out centre," Johns told Nine.
'He's not a fullback - for me the workload of a fullback will dull his effectiveness.
"Fullbacks run probably twice as far and more intense than a centre.
"I just think coming out of his own half will be wasted doing a lot of that work around the middle of the field. He's the best strike centre in the game."
But the Rabbitohs have rejected doubts over Mitchell's positional switch.
Club boss Shane Richardson is confident the Bunnies' star signing is talented enough to make the adjustment.
"He's an outstanding fullback. I watched him play there when he was an 18-year-old - he was an absolute champion and will definitely make it there," Richardson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"He's played a lot of fullback and will have no problems. If (coach) Wayne (Bennett) thinks he can play fullback he can play fullback.
"And we have a few handy centres at our club, so we don't need to play him there.
"Don't forget Greg Inglis won a grand final as a five-eighth. People forget that these greatly talented athletes like Greg and Latrell are just that and can play anywhere."
While insisting there were no hard feelings with the Roosters after the tri-colours withdrew a lucrative contract offer, Mitchell said Redfern already felt like home and he was embracing the challenge of making the Rabbitohs' No.1 jersey his own.
"The whole point of why I wanted to move from a club was to go and challenge myself," he said.
"Otherwise I was just going to get complacent with what I was doing, and centre wasn't cutting it for me.
"It was just a routine (at Roosters). I thought I would go and challenge myself."
Mitchell will be taking notes from indigenous assistant and former North Queensland fullback Matt Bowen on the finer points of fullback play ahead of the indigenous All Stars' clash against the Maori All Stars on the Gold Coast this weekend.
But there are no prizes for guessing who will be his inspiration for the 2020 season - idol Inglis, the ex-South Sydney skipper who became a Rabbitohs outside backs assistant after his 2019 retirement as a player.
"There are different fullbacks. You have Teddy (Roosters' James Tedesco) and there was Billy Slater - little nippy fellas," Mitchell said. "But Greg changed the game for big fullbacks. I am not a little nippy fella so I want to be smart, I need to be in position earlier.
"Guys like Teddy, they can whip around and run around corners and that's how they are.
"For me I want to change the game for a big fullback."
While Latrell Mitchell can now find the funny side of his ongoing contract saga, former suitors North Queensland won't be laughing after the NRL star admitted he visited Townsville in the off-season only to go fishing.
Mitchell appeared interested in a move north when Sydney Roosters talks broke down and he visited Cowboys headquarters last November.
Even after signing Valentine Holmes on a lucrative six-year deal, North Queensland coach Paul Green did not rule out the possibility of snaring Mitchell, which sparked rumours that the Cowboys would offload Jake Granville to find salary cap space for the X-factor.
But after ending months of speculation and signing with South Sydney last month, Mitchell set the record straight about his trip north when he arrived at the indigenous All Stars camp on the Gold Coast.
And the Cowboys won't like what they hear.
Asked if he was close to signing with North Queensland, Mitchell said with a laugh: "No, I just enjoyed the fishing, that's all it was.
"I only went for a holiday.
"It's good country up there but too hot for me."
Mitchell can now joke about his tumultuous off-season after knocking back interest from North Queensland, Gold Coast and Wests Tigers and finding a happy home at Redfern.
And it seems he will have the last laugh on critics of his very public Roosters divorce after quickly clicking with Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett.
"Just the things he says and the conversations he can have with you just flicks a switch and makes you a happy person - it changes your whole day," Mitchell said of the seven-time premiership winning mentor.
"I've just been learning a lot. He knows how to manage people. I love being at Souths at the moment.
"I went through a lot of stuff (in off season) … now I have a good team around me and I am really enjoying what's ahead."