Mal Meninga has revealed he wants Latrell Mitchell to be part of his Kangaroos squad for the end-of-year Tests, but would understand if the Souths fullback wants to avoid the spotlight. Mitchell watched on from the sidelines as Souths crashed out of finals contention on Friday night after a loss to arch-rivals the Roosters.
The fullback was serving a one-game suspension for his elbow on Tyson Frizell two weeks ago, but missed the Roosters clash because the Rabbitohs had the bye last week. With Mitchell unable to play, the Rabbitohs slumped to a 26-12 loss that kicked them out of the top eight and ended their season.
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The loss was the final nail in the coffin after a tumultuous few weeks for Mitchell and the Rabbitohs. The 2023 Rabbitohs are the first team in the NRL era to miss the finals after leading the competition as late as round 12.
Mitchell's on-field form has been particularly disappointing since his return from a calf injury. But speaking over the weekend, Meninga said he still wants the Rabbitohs player in his Kangaroos squad.
The Kangaroos will face off against Samoa on October 14 in a rematch of last year's World Cup final, before taking on New Zealand on October 28. “We need to communicate with all the clubs about which players will and won’t be available, but I’d love to have Latrell involved, and he has told me he’s keen,” Meninga told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I’m really keen for him to be available. I’m sure he loves the Kangaroos’ environment as well. He’s had an up and down year with injuries and suspension, but I’ve told him it would be nice to finish the year off in a nice environment where you will have a bit of fun and play good footy."
Mitchell played in the centres as the Kangaroos won the World Cup last year. Many believe he is more of a centre than a fullback due to his inability to show up in the right spot as regularly as the top fullbacks in the game do.
The 26-year-old has been at the centre of a storm in recent weeks amid reports Sam Burgess left his role as assistant coach prematurely due to the 'preferential' treatment afforded to Mitchell and Cody Walker. Mitchell and Walker have both denied the claims, but the Rabbitohs' disastrous finish to 2023 has left more questions than answers at the embattled club.
Mal Maninga to pick Daly Cherry-Evans in Kangaroos squad
Speaking last week, Meninga also revealed he wants Daly Cherry-Evans in his squad, even if Nathan Cleary has usurped him as the game's best halfback. “I reckon 'Chez' has had his best year, and we are picking a squad,” Meninga said on Thursday, according to NRL.com. “I haven’t had a chat with the other selectors but Daly and Nathan are the best two No.7s so I assume that if he is available, he will get selected.
“Chez can also play No.6, or he can play No.9, so his versatility adds to the strength of picking him. He could be a terrific No.14.”
Cherry-Evans previously said: "I definitely came back extremely motivated that I had lost the Australian halfback jersey. So that's definitely fuelled this season.
"No doubt about it. If I get dropped, I want to get back in there. I'm always ambitious to play rep footy. But I do understand where I stand on the pecking order. Nath (Cleary) is probably the first priority for Australia, and I get that."
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