Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler clash as Alex McKinnon makes shock Origin call on Latrell Mitchell

The South Sydney fullback is seemingly firming to play for NSW for the first time since 2021.

Brad Fittler and Alex McKinnon have both joined Paul Gallen in calling for Michael Maguire to pick Latrell Mitchell for NSW, however Andrew Johns has gone with Cronulla flyer Jesse Ramien instead. Maguire is facing a tricky call on who he picks at centre for the State of Origin opener on June 5, with Tom Trbojevic and Bradman Best both out injured.

Stephen Crichton seemingly has one of the centre spots locked down, and the likes of Mitchell, Ramien, Kotoni Staggs and Joseph Suaalii are vying for the other. Mitchell hasn't played Origin since 2021 but was picked for the first two games last year before he was ruled out of both with a calf injury.

Earlier this week, former NSW captain Gallen said he'd pick Mitchell for Game I this year, despite his patchy form and a number of controversies that have plagued him. On Wednesday, Blues legends Fittler and Johns both named the respective 17s that they would pick, but only Fittler named Mitchell.

Brad Fittler, Latrell Mitchell and Andrew Johns.
Brad Fittler wants Latrell Mitchell picked for NSW, but Andrew Johns doesn't. Image: Getty

Both went with James Tedesco at fullback rather than Dylan Edwards, while Fittler picked Mitchell and Crichton in the centres with Brian To'o and Josh Addo-Carr on the wings. However Johns went with Ramien and Crichton in the centres, with To'o and Suaalii as the wingers.

Both picked Cody Walker at five-eighth to partner Nicho Hynes in the halves, despite Souths running last in the NRL with one win from 10 games so far. Walker was man of the match in the dead-rubber Game III last year, but his form has been way down in 2024 and the likes of Matt Burton and Jarome Luai are leading the race for the Blues' No.6 jersey.

Andrew Johns' NSW team: 1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To'o 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Joseph Sua'ali'i 6. Cody Walker 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Reece Robson 10. Payne Haas 11. Liam Martin 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Cameron McInnes 15. Haumole Olakau'atu 16. Hudson Young 17. Stefano Utoikamanu

Brad Fittler's NSW team: 1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To'o 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cody Walker 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Liam Martin 9. Api Koroisau 10. Payne Haas 11. Haumole Olakau'atu 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 15. Matt Burton 16. Hudson Young 17. Mitch Kenny

Latrell Mitchell with the NSW State of Origin team in 2023.
Latrell Mitchell was picked for NSW in 2023 but was later ruled out with a calf injury.

Meanwhile, McKinnon has made the staggering call that he'd pick Mitchell on the bench as he can cover a number of positions in the backline, and could provide some X-factor for Maguire's side. "There’s now one non-negotiable, Latrell Mitchell has to be in the team at Accor Stadium," McKinnon told Fox Sports.

"Whether that’s starting at left centre, or - and it sounds crazy - but playing him off the bench. He has been impressive since returning from his suspension. He can play centre, wing, five-eighth and fullback and he has to be in the 17 players to represent the sky blue team.

"Queensland have always have X-factor on the bench. They’ve in the past picked Kalyn Ponga and Daly Cherry-Evans on the pine. There’d be nothing scarier for Billy Slater and Queensland than seeing Latrell Mitchell’s name on the team list ahead of Game I."


Gallen told Wide Wide of Sports earlier this week: "I just think we need his x-factor. At Origin level you need players who can make something happen out of nothing and we all know Latrell has that rare quality.

"He's only played seven games this year and he's scored five tries - clearly he's a game-breaker. The other important factor is he's been there before and the Blues haven't won a series since he last played for them."

Discussing the possibility of picking Mitchell last month, Maguire said: “Everyone knows the capabilities of Latrell, but it’s about making sure he is in the right headspace. At the moment, one thing I know is that in big games, you need your focus right about where you are going.

“Souths are going through a tough period, but Latrell has a chance to bunker down and really help the NSW team. He has another couple of months where he can put himself into that shape, but Origin games are up there with the biggest games of your life.

“I want to see that focus from all the players, making sure they are in a good headspace and feeling good about where they are. That helps the make-up of your team. We need all our guys to be playing at their best, including Latrell.”