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Mitchell set to return in fittest condition of his career

By AAP
Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs during a South Sydney NRL training session at Redfern Oval. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images).

South Sydney’s Tevita Tatola says returning superstar Latrell Mitchell looks in the fittest condition of his career as he returns to the Rabbitohs’ side.

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South Sydney prop Tevita Tatola has warned the entire NRL of Latrell Mitchell’s impending return, declaring the superstar fullback looks “the fittest I’ve ever seen him”.

Mitchell hasn’t played since round five when he hurt his hamstring and travelled to America for specialised treatment in that time, while his return was further delayed by a bout with COVID.

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But the Rabbitohs will name him for their clash with Parramatta, with Tatola saying it’s been worth the wait with the 25-year-old looking in pristine condition.

If Mitchell looks as good against the Eels as Tatola has indicated, it would also create a huge State of Origin selection headache for NSW coach Brad Fittler.

“He’s looking in good shape, he’s getting around the park really well, and his talk is immense at the moment,” Tatola told reporters.

“Everyone’s pretty keen to have him out there and we’re looking forward to him playing as well.

“He’s probably the energy bunny that we sort of need … we’re all just really keen for him to get back out there and play with him.”

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The Blues’ regular left centre has been covered by Jack Wighton and Matt Burton in Origin games one and two respectively and both shone, meaning Fittler would have a tough gig fitting all three into the line-up for the series decider should Mitchell prove his fitness.

Stephen Crichton played at right centre in game two and looks at risk of losing his spot after a quiet outing.

But at club level, Mitchell’s return is a monumental boost for a Rabbitohs’ side quickly losing touch with the competition’s elites and Eels back-rower Isaiah Papali’i expects they will be eager to hand Mitchell a win.

“They’re going to play with a lot of confidence,” he said.

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“Having Latrell added back into the team that’s something they’ll really look forward to.

“I’ve seen his Instagram, he’s been training hard and he’s looking good. I look forward to going up against him.”

But Parramatta young gun Will Penisini said he and his teammates wouldn’t be overawed by the return of South Sydney’s marquee man.

“We’re just focusing on ourselves at the moment,” he said.

“We’ve been up and down a bit this season but we’re looking forward to the second half of the year.”

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Meanwhile, Souths’ prop Tom Burgess said young halfback Lachlan Ilias was ready to perform after being unceremoniously hooked on 29 minutes in a 32-12 loss to St George Illawarra.

Souths’ coach Jason Demetriou has since said he still views Ilias as the side’s long-term halfback.

“He’s took it on the chin … he’s understood with Jason what he needed to work on and he’s obviously come in this week and it’s totally fine,” Burgess told reporters.

“He just wanted to get better and he’s not dwelling on it, he just wants to learn from it and take it as a lesson and move forward.

“People forget he’s in probably his first full year at halfback.”

By: Alex Mitchell and Jasper Bruce, AAP

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