Andrew Johns makes Origin call on Latrell Mitchell amid Michael Maguire fallout rumours

The NSW coach had his reasons for leaving Mitchell out of the Origin opener.

Forget about the past, bury any hatchets and pick Latrell Mitchell for State of Origin Game II if you want to save the series. That's the message from NSW great Andrew Johns to Blues coach Michael Maguire after the Souths superstar tore Gold Coast to pieces in a huge statement at Cbus Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Mitchell scored a try, set up three others, produced four line-break assists, shut down several Titans' attacking raids, defused bombs and taunted the home crowd in a performance full of energy and commitment. As Origin auditions go, it was a 10 out of 10 display.

Pictured left to right, NSW Origin coach Michael Maguire, Latrell Mitchell and Andrew Johns.
Andrew Johns has urged NSW coach Michael Maguire to pick Latrell Mitchell in his Blues Origin side despite any differences they may have had in the past. Pic: Getty

With NSW needing to win game two in Melbourne on June 26 after being thrashed in the series opener, Maguire must decide whether he rolls the dice and picks the damaging but polarising Mitchell. Johns is under no doubt despite whispers of a rift between player and coach.

Asked what changes he would make to the Blues line-up, he told The Sunday Footy Show: "Well, the first one, Latrell just has to come in – there are no ifs or buts. There's all rumours floating around that something happened pre-camp and he wasn't talking to Madge or didn't turn up or something.

"Who cares? Just get him in there. He's a serious X factor and he just destroyed them yesterday. It's just got to be him and Stephen Crichton in the centres." Pushed on whether Mitchell is the right fit under Maguire's team-first mantra, Johns continued: "Whatever's happened in the past, you've got to mend that or sort that out.

"We all know Latrell's a big personality but you've got to manage personalities. That's the job of the coach." Mitchell's former teammate Luke Keary, who was part of NSW's 20-man squad for game one, believes the Rabbitohs star is a must pick.

Latrell Mitchell races away for a South Sydney try against Gold Coast in the NRL. Pic: Getty
Latrell Mitchell races away for a South Sydney try against Gold Coast in the NRL. Pic: Getty

"Whatever people are going to say about him, if he lines up in an Origin game I can guarantee he puts belief in people around him," he said. "He comes up with massive plays at different times and whatever mindset he's in, he’ll turn for NSW."


Johns expects Maguire will changes his halves combination, with Parramatta's Mitchell Moses likely to replace Nicho Hynes at 7 and Souths' Cody Walker possibly slotting in at five-eighth for Jarome Luai. Johns said: "Nicho will come under all sorts of pressure and I get the feeling it's Mitchell Moses' No.7 to lose. The kicking game the other night wasn't up to scratch so Moses' kicking game will come in (to play). Game three last year, Moses and Cody were dynamic."