We saw glimpses of Latrell Mitchell’s best, but he struggled under the high ball. Picture: Getty Images.
We saw glimpses of Latrell Mitchell’s best, but he struggled under the high ball. Picture: Getty Images.

How Rabbitohs rated Latrell’s club debut

Okay, so Latrell Mitchell needs to spend some time under the high ball.

In coming weeks, will too.

Specifically, from every NRL rival who watched South Sydney's star recruit get underneath a bomb late in the first half of this one, outleap the pack, get both hands high above his head aaaaaaaand … well, think Englishman Phil Tufnell in the SCG outfield.

Dropped colder than unrequited love.

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Which no doubt will have been noticed by Luke Keary, Mitchell Moses and co.

But still despite this, and the fact Mitchell played just 40 minutes of the 2020 Charity Shield, you can still mark the opening night of Mitchell's 'Fullback Experiment' as a success.

Indeed, after a unique Mudgee build-up that saw Mitchell shielded from the media all week - yet also allowed to go shooting with mates in the surrounding scrub - rugby league's biggest pre-season story proved solid as his Bunnies beat St George Illawarra 26-12 at Glen Willow Sports Complex.

Playing only the first half, the reigning Roosters premiership star had some strong touches in his new role, most notably when he set up the Bunnies first try after just 55 seconds.

We saw glimpses of Latrell Mitchell’s best, but he struggled under the high ball. Picture: Getty Images.
We saw glimpses of Latrell Mitchell’s best, but he struggled under the high ball. Picture: Getty Images.
 

Attacking from a scrum after the Dragons fumbled play one, Mitchell took a pass from five-eighth Cody Walker and then produced a nice tip on for winger Campbell Graham, who still had work to do.

Soon after, the Bunnies No.1 was at it again, this time picking a pass from around his bootlaces and grubbering neatly into the in-goal for what was almost a try.

Elsewhere, the Indigenous All Star also looked to have stripped a little more summer weight - no easy thing given the Bunnies opted for a white playing strip for the Shield match - and was also in place near halftime to stop Dragons forward Tyson Frizell as he tore upfield

All up solid, if not spectacular.

Still, it could've been worse.

Bizarrely, both Mitchell and head coach Bennett refused to speak with media after the win, with hooker Cook instead offered up to the four journalists who travelled west to cover the match.

Asked why he was fronting for the youngster everyone wanted to hear from, Cook said: "He's only a young kid, we need to remember that.

"Even though he's been playing for a few years and won a few premierships - even though he's experienced - he is young and we want to make sure he's enjoying his footy.

"We know how much attention he got in the off season so, you know, it would be nice to keep (the media) away from him for a little bit.

The Dragons defence was extremely resilient in the first half, but it all fell apart after the break. Picture: Getty Images.
The Dragons defence was extremely resilient in the first half, but it all fell apart after the break. Picture: Getty Images.

"Then once he's settled in he will be happy to speak with anyone."

Cook also shrugged off the Mitchell fumble -- "plenty of fullbacks have dropped balls" -- while revealing how, even in a short space of time in Redfern, Mitchell had proved to have a similar presence to club great Greg Inglis.

"I'll never compare the two, even though they have a lot of similarities, because that's not what (Mitchell) wants," Cook said.

"But they have got a presence about them

"GI had it, had an aura about him.

"Latrell definitely has that too.

"And that's why it's important we keep him enjoying his footy because he's going to be a superstar for a long time."

The Dragons looked good early on, but it all fell apart once their marquee players left the field. Picture: NRL Photos.
The Dragons looked good early on, but it all fell apart once their marquee players left the field. Picture: NRL Photos.

DRAGONS STRUGGLE

The Charity Shield proved a tough watch for St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor who, already under pressure to retain his job this season, watched on from the grandstand as his side's Mudgee hoodoo continued.

All up, the Red V have now played five times at Glen Willow, losing four.

Worse was how St George Illawarra started the night, with prop Blake Lawrie fumbling with the very first run of the game.

While the Dragons rallied to lead 12-4 at the break, things fell apart in the second half despite the Bunnies benching a host of stars including Mitchell, Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds and Cameron Murray.

Asked if he was concerned with the performance, McGregor replied: "The second half, it isn't what you want to see in your final trial.

"But there were also a lot of things out there that we liked.

"Souths had four repeat sets and didn't come away with points at any time.

"They're a strong, physical side that score points - have one of the best backlines in the competition -- so to defend that for long periods was a real positive."

 

WEMBLEY OF WEST

There is no doubting the Charity Shield, which drew a crowd of 9124, has now morphed into a 'bucket list' event for fans of both South Sydney and St George Illawarra.

Over three days, The Oriental Hotel was transformed into a living, breathing, schooner-downing footy museum as a host of old greats - and even coach Bennett - came through the doors for a series of functions.

Elsewhere, local grounds staff also had the Glen Willow precinct in spectacular shape, as usual, despite the not so small matter of Mudgee's township being on Level 2 water restrictions.


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