South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has been praised for his decision to hand superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell a break ahead of the club’s massive clash against the Sydney Roosters on Friday night.
Mitchell was a surprise absence from Rabbitohs training on Tuesday with questions over whether he would feature in Souths’ final regular-season game, before it was subsequently revealed that he had returned home to his farm outside Taree.
Paul Kent told NRL 360: “He’ll play. He’s gone back to his farm, he’s had a few days up there. My understanding is he’s home tonight and he’ll be back tomorrow at training.
“There was an early fear he would be given the weekend off given what some teams are doing but he’ll play this week.
“I think it’s good coaching from Jason Demetriou … I think it’s a good idea. A little refresher before the finals.”
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Friday’s blockbuster match heralds the opening of the new Allianz Stadium, with a sold-out crowd to witness Sydney’s Joseph Suaalii’s first match against his former club. Tensions
between the two great rivals promise to deliver fireworks – and Demetriou’s decision to keep Latrell on ice in the buildup earned plenty of praise.
Paul Crawley told NRL 360: “It’s crucial that Souths don’t overcook it (emotionally), because Latrell and Cody (Mitchell) are both very emotional players, we know that. We know that Latrell plays his best football when he’s walking the line, but he can’t cross it. We’re on the eve of the finals again.
“The best move probably in the world was letting him go back to the farm and letting him chill out away from it. Because if he’s there, it would have cooked up more.”
Dave Riccio added: “History shows it’ll be fireworks. Absolute fireworks! And taking Latrell away from it – it actually wasn’t his call, it was the coach’s call. It’s smart coaching by Demetriou to take him out of the fire. I reckon he’ll be primed – you watch the showman go for 80 minutes.”
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Demetriou told News Corp on Tuesday: “I just grabbed him after the game (against the Cowboys) and said I want you to go back to Taree and spend some time with your parents and get away from footy for a few days.
“He was like, ‘are you sure?’ I spoke to him today. He is really good and he is ready to go. He will be at captain’s run and ready to go.
“He misses one training session because it is a short turnaround. Like I said, it is not even so much about this week. It is about freshening him up for the next month.”
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Mitchell last year copped a six-game suspension last season for a monster shot on former teammate Joseph Manu. Mitchell was sin-binned in the spiteful win at Suncorp, while Manu was taken to hospital with a fractured cheekbone.
Crawley said the Roosters would be looking for ‘retribution’ for that incident this time around: “And the rest of the Roosters forward pack – they always seek retribution. There’s no doubt in the world it’s going to blow up … Both coaches will be sitting there with fingers crossed, hoping that they don’t get any suspensions.”
Dave Riccio said: “With the finals around the corner, one slip up (could cost them), if those emotions do boil over from Cody and Latrell.
“To be fair, they hold South Sydney’s hopes in their hands, those two players.”
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