Latrell Mitchell reportedly considers switch to rugby union
THE shambolic handling of Latrell Mitchell's contract negotiations has taken another twist with a report claiming the NRL star is considering a shock code switch to play rugby union.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Mitchell's camp approached Rugby Australia to sound out whether there was any interest from the 15-a-side game in luring the NSW and Kangaroos centre away from rugby league.
The Roosters star has been shopping around for another club after the Tricolours, frustrated by Mitchell's approach to his future, withdrew their two-year, $1.6 million offer.
Mitchell is contracted to the Roosters until the end of 2020 but snubbed their offer, believing he is worth more money.
On Thursday the Wests Tigers became the latest club to show its dissatisfaction with Mitchell by pulling a lucrative offer off the table.
Fed up with waiting around for Mitchell to make a decision while other players remain available on the open market, the Tigers withdrew their $3.8 million, four-year deal.
The Bulldogs and Souths have both denied interest in the NSW Origin and Kangaroos gun and it's become more complicated for the Cowboys to get involved after signing Valentine Holmes on a whopping $5.7 million, six-year deal upon his return from the NFL.
The Titans are keen on signing Mitchell but would need to free up space in the salary cap before putting together an offer the 22-year-old would entertain.
Social media wasn't impressed the Mitchell farce had taken a turn towards rugby union.
Now Latrell’s people have played the rugby union card, there’s only one thing left - the NFL!! Not sure who is advising Latrell - he seems to have about 3 managers - but can’t remember a more ham-fisted handling in recent years.— Brent Read (@brentread_7) November 29, 2019
Latrell to rugby?— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) November 29, 2019
Whoever is in this bloke’s ear has absolutely no idea.
Seriously, as much as I loathe them, why wouldn’t they accept 800k from the Roosters first up?
One of the best young talents in the game, receiving the worst advice imaginable. #nrl #sillyseason
This Latrell thing has become a shambles. A penny for Robinson’s and Politis’ thoughts when they read his threat to go to union. Latrell won’t play his best footy ever again. He had it so good playing in that system, and on that left edge, at the Chooks.— Steve Zemek (@stevezemek) November 29, 2019
Latrell Mitchell, who has actively negotiated with several clubs for 2021 with a year still to run on his contract, posted this onto his Instagram story the other day. I like Latrell but he is the one negotiating. It’s everything that’s wrong with the NRL’s contract system. #NRL pic.twitter.com/Rm95O1VfON— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) November 29, 2019
In May, former Newcastle premiership-winner turned rugby union star Timana Tahu said Mitchell should be on Rugby Australia's hit list.
"For the next high-profile player that they wanna look at, throw big money at, I'd be looking at Latrell," Tahu wrote in a column for SBS.
"It'd be a massive loss for rugby league, but for rugby union, he'd bring a new audience, new sponsorship and help change the Wallabies.
"It's perfect timing because there are two or three years for him to get his game knowledge up … the next World Cup is in 2023.
"In terms of his union success, I just see his kicking skills, as well as his passing skills, being valuable. He's tall, he's fast, he's big - he's made for rugby union.
"In my opinion, if you were at Rugby Australia you should be doing everything you could to get him across.
"He could be a dominating centre in an Australian Super Rugby team, plus he would be an attribute for the Wallabies.
"I think his profile would bring a lot to the Wallabies too, on and off the field."
If Mitchell can't ink a deal, he faces the prospect of playing in the Roosters' reserves next year after falling out with coach Trent Robinson with one season left on his contract.
However, the Titans sounded confident they could tempt Mitchell after organising for the NSW centre to tour their facilities next week where they are expected to use their trump cards - Mal Meninga and Justin Holbrook.
Titans head of culture and performance Meninga has bonded with Mitchell as Kangaroos coach, and new Gold Coast mentor Holbrook got to know the centre during his time as Robinson's assistant at the Roosters.
"The Titans are always interested in attracting quality players to the club and Latrell more than fits that description," a Titans spokesman said.
"Latrell has expressed an interest in moving to the Gold Coast to play for the Titans, to continue his growth as a player and person under the mentorship of Mal and coaching of Justin."
Gold Coast suddenly became Mitchell's top priority after Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe told the player's management on Thursday they had "moved on". The Tigers had hoped for a decision from Mitchell this week before it emerged the Titans had entered the pursuit for the 22-year-old, further frustrating the joint venture.
The Tigers have reportedly now set their sights on Melbourne's Josh Addo-Carr.
Pascoe did not rule out re-opening talks with Mitchell but Tigers great Steve Roach believed they should wash their hands of the X-factor.
"If I was the Tigers that would be it. I would go searching for someone else," he told Fox Sports. "You can't just sit around waiting for someone to make their decision.
"What do we do? Just wait for him to dance off to every other club and see if we are the last man standing?"
North Queensland appeared in the mix after coach Paul Green left the door open to sign Mitchell even after snaring Holmes but Cowboys football boss Peter Parr later all but dismissed their chances, saying it would be "difficult" to offload several players and present a competitive offer for the star.