Latrell Mitchell hits back as Cooper Cronk fuels theory about NSW State of Origin snub

The South Sydney fullback has shot down speculation surrounding his commitment to the Blues.

Latrell Mitchell has refuted suggestions he wasn't fully committed to playing State of Origin for NSW and that's the reason he was overlooked in Michael Maguire's team. Reports emerged last month that Mitchell has considering withdrawing from contention for Origin so he could focus on helping Souths get off the bottom of the NRL ladder.

It was only last weekend that it was confirmed that Mitchell was available for NSW if Maguire wanted to pick him. With Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic and Cameron Murray all out injured, many had called for Mitchell to earn a recall for NSW due to his vast experience in the Origin arena.

Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell.
Cooper Cronk has weighed in on Latrell Mitchell's snub from the NSW State of Origin team. Image: Getty

But Maguire went with Stephen Crichton and Joseph Suaalii in the centres instead, even though he axed incumbent captain and fullback James Tedesco as well. Veteran journalist Phil Rothfield revealed on Monday morning that Maguire had met with Mitchell in recent weeks and got the impression he was more focused on helping the Rabbitohs turn around their fortunes than winning the State of Origin shield with the Blues.

"I had mail last week that he might have had a meeting with Madge and Madge walked away from that meeting with an opinion that he (Latrell) wasn’t overly obsessed about wearing the Blues jersey," Rothfield said on Sky Sports Radio. "He (Mitchell) was dreadfully concerned about the train-wreck season that is South Sydney and I think after they spoke, Madge was of the opinion he wants guys who aren’t concerned about club footy and want to do their best for the state."

Latrell Mitchell in action for NSW in State of Origin in 2018.
Latrell Mitchell hasn't played State of Origin since 2021 but has loads of experience for NSW.

But Mitchell has since smacked down that theory and claimed he was all-in for the Blues if Maguire wanted to pick him. “Just to clarify,” he wrote on social media on Monday evening. “I’m always committed to playing for NSW.

“FACTS: I specifically said to Madge via phone call if I’m playing well enough for me to be in your side then I’m in 100%. I bleed blue, l love the rivalry and the Origin arena. All I can do now is focus on Souths and winning more games. Good luck to the boys in blue, I’ll be cheering NSW all the way.”


Rothfield also suggested that Mitchell wasn't the kind of player that Maguire wants in his team. The new Blues coach seemed to pick players with high work-rates rather than flashy stars, and Mitchell has always been criticised for failing to inject himself into games more often.

“Latrell’s not a - and I don’t want to say work ethic - but he’s not a work-rate player," Rothfield said. "The two boys Maguire has picked in the centres - Stephen Crichton and Joseph Suaalii - that’s their speciality. Their involvement in football games, the fact they’re always looking for the football, the fact they’re doing little extras."

Discussing the situation on Monday night, Queensland great Cooper Cronk fuelled that theory. “I get why he’s not (in the team),” Cronk said on Fox League. “You can’t go down that path of picking (Dylan) Edwards and (Cameron) McInnes and then picking Latrell because that goes away from the way you’re setting up your team.

“But when Latrell puts it together there’s hardly anyone that can stop him. But Latrell needs to be in the right headspace for him to play in the big moments and obviously Madge has had a conversation to think that he’s not.”

However Cronk conceded that Maguire's team might be missing a game-breaker who can produce a special play when the game is on the line. “The one thing that NSW will need – because if it is tight, if it is close, if there is fatigue – who is going to be the game-breaker?" he asked.

“It’s going to have to be [Jarome Luai and Nicho Hynes] because the rest of those guys, Luai has done tremendously the last two weeks without Cleary and I like Hynes’ body of work, but I don’t think they’ve ever dominated Origin. Whereas I think Reece Walsh, Hammer (Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow), there’s a few more X-factors there (for Queensland).”