The Latrell Mitchell contract saga took yet another turn yesterday, with Wests Tigers – thought to be the short-priced favourites to land his signature – sensationally pulling out of the race.
It was only last year when the eighth Immortal Andrew Johns criticised the Sydney Roosters for their underuse of superstar centre Latrell Mitchell. “They’ve got a Ferrari in the garage and they never drive it,” Johns said.
It was a dire warning for the eventual back-to-back premiers who had just lost to the Dragons 24-8 on a wet and uncompromising Anzac Day clash. Would their plan to lure Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco to Bondi fail already by April?
Time would seem to say no – both would go on to win the next two premierships, and Latrell Mitchell would pick up state and Australian representatives on the way. However, it’s a crucial warning that other clubs might need to heed before they decide to pounce on the Roosters superstar.
The rumour mill has been churning like never before in Sydney’s eastern suburbs as it seems more likely that Latrell Mitchell will leave the hen for a bigger payday and maybe a bigger role at either the Wests Tigers or North Queensland Cowboys.
Mitchell has long dreamt to be a star fullback in the NRL. In his first season with the Roosters in 2016 he switched between wing, centre and fullback before he finally claimed the No. 1 jersey and looked like the second coming of his childhood hero, Greg Inglis.
And as the games best players in Tedesco, Jake Trbojevic and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck bring the ball back in every game, it seems Mitchell’s dream to play fullback still burns strong – leaving his future with the Roosters very uncertain.
Mitchell was last seen in Townsville having dinner with Cowboys officials about a possible switch to North Queensland, however a late Valentine Holmes recruitment swoop quickly put that rumour to bed. But then Cowboys coach Paul Green said they were still in the hunt for the two-time Premiership star, who could still line up in the centre position.
So now the attention turns to the Wests Tigers – a club who has been left reeling after another star signing in Ryan Matterson walked out of the club. They have reportedly offered Mitchell a four-year, $4 million dollar deal at fullback that would see him become one of the highest paid players in the game.
And although he would still be playing fullback at the Tigers – enabling him to touch the ball more and become involved more in plays – the question mark still remains. Will the Ferrari be kept in the garage?
Now some might say it was the Roosters playmakers’ fault for not giving him early ball on Anzac day last year, but it hasn’t been the first time Mitchell has been criticised for his lapses in play. Phil Gould went on the attack with Mitchell after his disappointing performance in this year’s State of Origin opener, saying he was lazy and looked uninterested.
The problem didn’t last for too long, and it was only this year where Mitchell received Dally M Centre of the Year and was the league’s highest point scorer – but that was with the Roosters. Now put Mitchell in a Tigers system that hasn’t tasted finals football since 2011 – or a Cowboys team still hurting from the departure of Johnathan Thurston.
If Latrell Mitchell does indeed decide to leave the Sydney Roosters, he may keep the Ferrari locked inside the garage for a lot longer.