Jason Demetriou doesn’t want to temper Latrell Mitchell’s passion but the South Sydney coach has urged his match-winning fullback not to overthink a highly anticipated NRL return.
Mitchell is back in action after a six-game suspension when Souths play Melbourne on Thursday night.
In the time since his high shot on close friend Joey Manu ended his 2021 season, Mitchell has been at the centre of headlines over the NRL’s judicial system.
The fullback has also been forced to watch on as the Rabbitohs made and lost a grand final, amid questions over whether he needed to tone down his aggression.
Demetriou admitted on Wednesday he would likely have to calm Mitchell before his return, saying it was a matter of ensuring his marquee player’s emotions do not boil over.
“I want his passion. I want him out there, I want him loving being out there with his South Sydney jersey on,” Demetriou said.
“It’s more about playing the game in his head before we get there and he turns up fatigued because he’s been that excited all week.
“He has been itching to go for weeks.
“It’s about getting fired up and ready to go at the right time.”
Demetriou’s comments are in line with those of South Sydney teammates this week, with Jacob Host among those laughing off a fracas between he and the 24-year-old in training last week.
Souths were shocked by Brisbane last week and Mitchell’s return comes at a crucial time for the club.
They have the Sydney Roosters and Penrith in the weeks following the Storm, while the Melbourne trip is one they have not conquered in the club’s history.
The fullback’s prowess is obvious, scoring 13 tries and setting up just as many in 17 games last year as one of the most dangerous ball-running fullbacks in the NRL.
But his presence should also benefit rookie half Lachlan Ilias, who spent the majority of his pre-season working with Mitchell in the spine.
“I’ve been happy just seeing them train together,” Demetriou said.
“(Ilias)’ role chat doesn’t change but the opportunities he sees does.
“Latrell is a player who attracts attention, there’s no doubt about that.
“And whatever side of the ruck he is in there are opportunities to play on both sides.
“So I think that helps Cody (Walker) and Lachie. But it also can help Damien Cook as well.”