Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has accepted part of the blame for Latrell Mitchell’s sensational axing from the NSW State of Origin team.
Not even a two-try, 18-point performance in the Roosters’ 38-12 NRL demolition job on Canterbury on Sunday could save Mitchell from being overlooked on his 22nd birthday by Blues coach Brad Fittler.
Mitchell’s Roosters teammate Angus Crichton was also left out of Fittler’s 17-man squad for Origin II next Sunday in Perth.
Robinson lamented resting Mitchell and Crichton from the Roosters’ clash with Penrith the weekend after NSW’s game-one loss to Queensland in Brisbane.
“I’m disappointed for him – and Angus as well. It’s obviously a price to pay, I guess, for the first (Origin),” Robinson said.
“But Angus didn’t play last week and Latrell didn’t play last week. I think he (Fittler) asked them to go back and play well, so a bit of that’s on me for not giving them the opportunity.”
Robinson, though, insisted he harboured no ill-feeling towards Fittler, a premiership-winning legend and former Roosters coach himself.
“I’m not going to sit here and bag Freddy,” he said.
“I’m not going to second guess Freddy.
“When you sit in the seat, you often make choices as a coach about the team that you want and the selections that you made and a lot of people have opinions on that.
“So I don’t want to add weight to that.
“If I was NSW coach, then I’d want to select the team that I wanted and that I really wanted on that park – and they’ve made that choice.
“My thing is about getting Latrell and Angus – and (fellow Origin stars) Boyd (Cordner) and Teddy (James Tedesco) – to play the best footy that they can and I thought both of them (who got axed) played really, really well tonight.”
Mitchell’s Origin axing overshadowed an otherwise great day for the Roosters, who snapped a three-game losing streak to power into equal-second spot on the table.
Answering Robinson’s challenge to return to the standards expected of the reigning premiers and competition’s benchmark team, the Roosters ran in seven tries to two to leave the Bulldogs in last place.
Ironically, it was Mitchell’s regular centre partner Joey Manu who lit up the gloomy SCG while deputising for Blues fullback Tedesco.
Manu also crossed twice, as well as setting up one other and running for a game-high 253 metres.
Blues captain Cordner dispelled any lingering concerns with a big game after suffering ankle ligament damage in Origin I, while Cooper Cronk and Daniel Tupou combined superbly for two of the Roosters’ tries.
An eye-catching debut from New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – who provided a new dimension attacking from fullback after his mid-season defection from Penrith – or a lively display from hooker Jeremy Marshall-King – couldn’t save Canterbury from an 11th defeat of the season.
Sitili Tupouniua, Drew Hutchinson – enjoying a rare start in injured playmaker Luke Keary’s absence – and Isaac Liu also collected four-pointers for the Roosters.
After losses to Penrith, Newcastle and Brisbane in their previous three outings, Sunday’s victory was a welcome relief for Robinson heading into the representative round bye.