Fittler may hope Mitchell remains in red, white and blue next season but the Herald has learned some Roosters board members are now convinced the grand final win against Canberra last month will be his last game for the club.
The NSW State of Origin coach doubles as one of the Roosters’ favourite sons and while he did not want to discuss the reasons behind Mitchell’s omission from the Blues team in Origin II and III which went on to claim back-to-back series wins, Fittler did say Mitchell’s club form stamped his year as a success.
“If you look at his season with his club, you’d have to call it a success,” he said. “He won his team a premiership with that last pass in the grand final and now he’s won two premierships there. Personally, I wish him all the best.”
Fittler isn’t the only one urging Mitchell to reconsider his decision to look away from the tri-colours beyond next season. The Herald has been told several of Mitchell’s Roosters teammates have reached out in recent days to check on the star centre’s welfare. Other members of the NSW Origin set-up have done the same.
Former Blues coach Laurie Daley also joined Fittler in imploring Mitchell to stay with the Roosters, who publicly supported the star centre through a tumultuous season away from the field.
“That could put more pressure on him,” Daley said on his radio show, The Big Sports Breakfast, when asked if he thought Mitchell needed a change of scenery.
“Everyone responds differently to different situations and if you’ve got a guy that’s got plenty of talent that can lift other people and inspire other people, that would be a good move.
“I just think where Latrell is at the moment, he’s better off to stay at the Roosters, in that system. And then, in two or three years’ time … he’s still only 25 years of age … then if he wanted to take the money, take it.”
The Tigers and Bulldogs remain the most likely destinations for Mitchell if his relationship with the Roosters breaks down beyond repair.
Sources close to Mitchell say the link to the Cowboys is tenuous at best, given the value he places on being in close proximity to his support network in Taree.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire did not dismiss questions about his club’s interest in Mitchell when asked in New Zealand camp on Thursday.
“You look at every player, that’s my job to make sure that you look at potentials and what could be in your team, so in time we will work through those sorts of things,” Maguire said.
“As a coach it’s my duty and [as] an organisation we have got to look at whatever is available at that moment in time, and also too can it actually fit in your [salary] cap?”
The Tigers and Cowboys are the two clubs who are both interested in Mitchell and have the $1 million in required cap space to accommodate the unhappy star in 2020.
If Mitchell is able to secure a seven-figure annual salary elsewhere, the Roosters will all but certainly let him walk rather than making him play one more season for the tri-colours as they strive to win a third straight premiership.
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.