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Opinion

Souths to be the beneficiaries of Roosters' gamble on Latrell

(Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Editor
11th January, 2020
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After months of denial from both parties, it looks as though there is but one stumbling block left before Latrell Mitchell joins South Sydney: money.

However, it’s not his asking price that’s set to be the issue, so much as what the NRL believes the 22-year-old is actually worth.

“A list of earnings of every NRL player will help the game’s salary cap auditor determine Latrell Mitchell’s market value should he accept a cut-price contract from South Sydney,” Pamela Whaley reported this week.

“It’s understood NRL auditor Richard Gardham has final discretion to determine market value using a list of comparative players to reach his decision.”

It’s suggested the Bunnies have $400,000 left in the cap for the 2020 season, which surely isn’t anywhere near the market value of someone who has represented his state and country.

Whaley wrote that the NRL’s reigning top point-scorer for two years in a row would be considered to have a market value similar to the likes of James Tedesco, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tom Trbojevic – all of whom are on around $1 million a season.

So while 400 grand a year is outrageous money for most – and better than the average for a top-30 NRL player – it’s not even half of what a player of Mitchell’s ilk should be paid.

It seems ludicrous that the Bunnies would be allowed to snare one of the finest players in the game for such a price.

But would it be so unfair if they simply matched the deal Mitchell is presently on?

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Latrell Mitchell

(Matt King/Getty Images)

Last May, NRL.com reported that Mitchell was “set to earn around $550,000 next year” – a number that, at the time, had the centre and his people eager to hit the open market in search of a seven-figure-a-year deal.

As of November 1 these explorations have been played out in public, with the Roosters said to have offered $800,000, while the Tigers were apparently willing to give Mitchell the ‘Vanilli’ he desired.

These offers, combined with what he has achieved on the field, are why auditor Gardham probably would not allow the youngster to sign up elsewhere for a paltry $400K.

However, these offers were for 2021 onwards. Mitchell’s stated value for 2020 is $550,000.

It’s an absolute steal today, but when the Roosters extended the Taree product on that contract in March 2018, he was a 20-year-old with 48 first-grade games and zero rep matches to his name.

The club paid for potential and it reaped dividends. And if people were robots, the Chooks would have held their young superstar for this year – they saw the promise and should likewise see the rewards.

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But an unhappy player – even one whose value far outstrips his price – is a detriment to a club, so the Tricolours have all but turned Mitchell loose.

I say all but, because while Mitchell announced on Instagram that his time in Bondi “has come to an end”, the bloke is still receiving his wages from Nick Politis.

View this post on Instagram

Firstly I want to thank @sydneyroosters for everything they have done for me an my family. I can not describe the way I feel right now but just wanted to let everyone know involved in my career through my stint here, I am so very grateful for you all. To the fans, thanks you ! Wouldn’t be a game without you. Humbled to be able to play with such a rich history club didn’t think as a Country boy I’d be able to transition to the city but roosters made that possible. To the boys !! I love yas. Playing along side of you all was something I’ll hold close to my heart. Nothing has been made official as of yet. But my stay at the roosters has come to an end. On to the next chapter where ever that may be. ❤️????????

A post shared by L a t r e l l M i t c h e l l™ (@iam_lm01) on

And with the NRL financial year starting on November 1, that means the disgruntled dynamo has drawn around $100,000 from his soon-to-be-former club for the 2020 season.

Put that on top of the $400K the cardinal and myrtle have in the bank for him and Mitchell is pretty close to the $550,000 he’s registered for in 2020.

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The issue with that, however – as reported in Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald – is that Easts apparently want a refund of the money they’ve paid Mitchell since November if they are to release him to the Rabbitohs.

It’s worth acknowledging that the Herald also reported on Friday that Mitchell is on 700K for this year, although the same publication said in May 2019, “the superstar centre is earning only about $450,000 for the current season. That figures increases by about $100,000 next year”.

As a result, I’m sticking solid with the sum of $550,000 for 2020. Two reliable, unrelated sources reported it eight months ago and why would the Roosters, in the meantime, have upgraded the contract of a player who didn’t agree to an extension – especially one who has been at the centre of constant reports he’s unhappy at the club?

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As for where the Bunnies can find the $150,000 they need, well if the Titans continue to hold firm on keeping Jai Arrow for 2020, the moolah required to pay back the Chooks and give Mitchell his NRL-mandated salary is freed up.

Ultimately, this whole mess has come about because Mitchell thinks that he’s worth a million dollars a year. Because he is. And in 2021, the salary cap auditor bloody well better hold firm on that.

But in 2020 Latrell Mitchell’s stated worth is $550,000 and that’s a figure Souths can likely pay.