How Latrell Mitchell fell out of favour with the Roosters


On field, Mitchell started the year in sensational form. He slotted a brilliant match-winning field goal against the Storm at AAMI Park in round six and followed that with arguably the best individual performance of the season against Wests Tigers at the SCG in round eight.

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With just seven touches, Mitchell scored three tries and set up two others in the 42-12 rout.

It was a string of games which had some commentators stamping him as both the next Greg Inglis and the best player in the NRL.

But it was after that win against the Storm when the  eyebrows of rivals were first raised.

Melbourne players were privately furious with the way he reacted to the field goal. As soon as the ball left Mitchell’s boot he turned and ran straight to the Storm bench, rather than celebrating with his teammates.

Melbourne officials privately scoffed at comparisons between Mitchell and Inglis after that.

“That’s how he’s wired, though,” a Storm source said. “As long as he keeps making the plays he will get away with it.”

Those plays eventually dried up for Mitchell, as the circus surrounding his life off the field hurt his game on the field.

Rival clubs took note. After being arguably the prized signature of the 2021 free agent class, several teams have ruled themselves out of the race for Mitchell’s signature.

Latrell Mitchell at Sydney Roosters training.Credit:Getty Images

The Bulldogs were on Friday afternoon the latest club to put the pen through Mitchell’s name, having been linked to the star centre for months. A Bulldogs source said Canterbury didn’t feel Mitchell was the “right fit” for them.

The last week, in particular, has seen the spotlight on Mitchell’s future shine mighty bright. And it has revealed the cracks between club and player, who no longer see eye to eye.

Mitchell is a family man. The Roosters, under Trent Robinson, have become the NRL’s family club. Players often speak of love for their “brothers” in red, white and blue.

And it’s family which drove the first wedge between Mitchell and the Roosters. Mitchell was not happy when the Roosters did not offer his brother, Shaquai, a spot in the club’s top 30 for the 2020 season.

The three-time premiership-winning coach backed Mitchell as though he was family. That is why privately, Robinson has told confidantes he has grown frustrated with his star centre. He isn’t the only influential figure at the club’s Moore Park base who feels that way.

Those frustrations reached boiling point when Mitchell left $1.6 million on the table to test the open market.

At $800,000 per season, Mitchell would have been the highest paid centre in the NRL.

The Roosters view Mitchell’s decision to rebuke that offer as disrespectful, given all they have done for him both publicly and behind the scenes.

It was behind closed doors where club chairman Nick Politis made the point as early as May that he would not entertain a bidding war for Mitchell’s signature.

Politis will not budge from the since rescinded $800,000-a-year on offer. If Mitchell’s manager Wayde Rushton can find him an offer north at the current asking price of $1 million per season, the Roosters will tip their hat to him.

Nick Politis is a master negotiator.

Nick Politis is a master negotiator.Credit:NRL Photos

Club sources have made the point in recent days that few teams can match the calibre of left-edge talent the Roosters boast either.

If Mitchell leaves, he will not be afforded the same space and time he currently enjoys as part of a lethal combination with Luke Keary, Boyd Cordner and Daniel Tupou.

That’s also part of the reason Mitchell’s teammates and members of the NSW Origin staff have reached out to the Taree product in the last week. They are checking in on his welfare but also warning the superstar of the risks leaving the Roosters presents, both on and off the field.

It comes after an international season in which Mitchell appeared to be pre-occupied with his contract negotiation.

According to a source in the Australia camp for the Tests against New Zealand and Tonga, he spoke about his frustrations with the negotiation process and the trouble he has had finding the right agent to act on his behalf.

Mitchell was disgruntled in Kangaroos camp.

Mitchell was disgruntled in Kangaroos camp.Credit:Getty Images

Mitchell only signed on with Rushton a few months ago, having already split from former agent Steve Deacon at the start of year.

Money was the source of Mitchell’s frustration with Deacon, with the centre believing he could have earned more in his current deal with the Roosters.

His frustration with Rushton was triggered by the agent’s inability to deliver on promises which Mitchell believes were made to him during the race for his signature after the split from Deacon.

That has brought outside influences into the picture. Matt Rose, who looks after Cody Walker and Jack Wighton, has entered the frame. The Roosters are fearful that if Mitchell turns his business over to Rose, he will push him to play alongside Walker at Souths.

And as more voices have sidled up to Mitchell’s ear, his on-field productivity has suffered.

After a quiet Origin opener at Suncorp Stadium, he was left out of Brad Fittler’s NSW team for Origin II in Perth and the eventual decider at ANZ Stadium.

The same player being compared to Inglis less than two months earlier was no longer the first name on Fittler’s team sheet.

The suggestion that Mitchell still does not know why he was left out of Fittler’s team is false.

Mitchell was left out of the Blues team which won Origin II and Origin III.

Mitchell was left out of the Blues team which won Origin II and Origin III.Credit:AAP

It is part of Fittler’s policy as coach to formally tell players why they have been dropped.

Members of the NSW coaching staff also spent time with Mitchell after they bumped into him during a team bonding session at The Star prior to Origin II.

Some of that time together was spent discussing why Mitchell had been omitted.

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The Blues hierarchy were unhappy with Mitchell’s effort in the final game of last year’s Origin series, which was a dead rubber.

They saw similar signs in the first game of this year’s series, when Queensland stunned NSW.

Mitchell has barely been out of the news since then and with the Roosters having pulled their offer for 2021 and beyond, the headlines aren’t going away.

The issue now is where he will end up. Canterbury are out but the Tigers are hovering with $1.5m in salary cap space.

South Sydney, meanwhile, continue to be mentioned behind the scenes as a potential suitor, although the Rabbitohs have said publicly they’re not interested.

While speculation rages about his future, Mitchell weighed in on Friday.

“Just want to clear up anything that is going on in the media!!” he wrote on Instagram.

“I still have a year with the @SydneyRoosters I just want to spend some time with my family and enjoy my break, is that too much to ask for?

“I am in no rush to make any decisions for 2021.”

That may be the case but the clock is now ticking on his time with the Roosters. The family bond has fractured.

And some corners of the club are firm in their belief the grand final win against Canberra will be his last in red, white and blue.

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