Ben Hornby hints at brutal Latrell Mitchell move if Souths slide down NRL ladder without him

Hornby suggests Mitchell may undergo surgery before year's end if Souths' top eight hopes are over in the coming weeks.

Ben Hornby has hinted that Latrell Mitchell undergoing surgery before the end of the NRL season is not off the cards as Souths prepare for their first match without the injured star against the Dolphins on Thursday. Mitchell is set to miss at least a month of footy but hasn't needed to undergo immediate season-ending surgery, which was originally feared to be the case.

"Mitchell has been reviewed by a surgeon this morning and a decision has been made to manage his left midfoot injury conservatively, meaning he will not require surgery," the club said in a statement on Tuesday. "Mitchell will get another scan and review in a fortnight to ensure the injury is progressing."

The Bunnies will send him back for further scans once he is out of the boot to determine if his NRL season is over, but the belief is that he will be able to return if needed. However, interim coach Hornby revealed on Wednesday that if by that time the Rabbitohs are out of the finals hunt, he would likely be sent for surgery early anyway, meaning he very well could have played his last NRL match in 2024.

Pictured Ben Hornby left and right Latrell Mitchell
Ben Hornby suggests Latrell Mitchell may undergo surgery before the end of the NRL season if Souths' top eight hopes are over in the coming weeks. Image: AAP

"He doesn't feel like it is too sore at the moment, so that is keeping him a bit more upbeat than if it was completely gone," Hornby said. "We certainly hope (he can avoid surgery). We can't predict that, and I'm not a doctor. We'll see how the scan goes in four weeks time."

Placed 13th on the ladder, Souths have won five straight games, but still likely require victory in seven of their last nine to make the finals. The Bunnies have won one of four matches without Mitchell this year, and three of their last 13 without him since midway through 2022.

Souths had been planning for Jye Gray to wear No.1 on Thursday anyway, with Mitchell anticipated to be on Origin duty this week. The club gave the youngster an 80-minute hit out at fullback in NSW Cup last week in preparation.

Gray will likely hold onto the fullback spot until Mitchell returns and Hornby is confident he can slot in seamlessly in place of Mitchell. "There will be subtle changes, but they won't be massive," Hornby said.

"Jack (Wighton) and Cody (Walker) will still do most of the ball playing, and he (Gray) will just play his role out the back and through the middle. He is ready to go. He is a good young player, you've seen the excitement he brings to our game."

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While Souths' late-season finals hunt could determine when Mitchell will undergo surgery, it won't change his thinking about other key injuries. Hornby confirmed Campbell Graham, Lachlan Ilias and Isaiah Tass would not play again this season, while Jai Arrow is still set to undergo long-awaited shoulder surgery on Friday.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Jai Arrow of the Rabbitohs is tackled during the round one NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jai Arrow is booked in for long-awaited shoulder surgery on Friday.

Arrow has been suffering from a shoulder injury since round 1. He missed several weeks before returning in round 8 against the Panthers. Since then he has played through pain due to so many forwards missing this season, with the goal being for him to make it until Cam Murray returns from Origin duty.

Hornby admitted he had been tempted to hold off Arrow's surgery even longer until the Rabbitohs' season was effectively over, but has opted not to. "We have to do what is best for Jai," Hornby said. "He's been toughing it out. He did the injury in round one, had a bit of time off and came back. We just have to do the best thing for him."

with AAP