AAP Rugby

Latrell’s fired up ahead of NRL return

By AAP Newswire

Before Latrell Mitchell came to South Sydney, Dane Gagai and his teammates concluded it wasn't smart to 'poke the bear' when the Rabbitohs played the Roosters.

The 22-year-old had a reputation for embarrassing his rivals and taking individual battles personally when at the tricolours, making it his mission to prove a point if he was slighted.

And now, after months of negative headlines over Mitchell's fitness, fullback switch and social distancing fines, Gagai has the same warning for the Roosters ahead of next week's clash with his former side.

"He's the type of person that doesn't like to lose and he'll compete no matter what," Gagai said.

"It doesn't take much to get him going.

"It's one thing that we spoke about when we were coming up against him is you don't want to poke the bear."

Mitchell has been shielded from speaking to media since his arrival at Redfern at the start of the season after making the controversial switch from their arch rivals.

A less than impressive start in the No.1 jersey for Rabbitohs fuelled the critics.

He then copped a fine for flouting social distancing laws and was heavily criticised for a perceived lack of fitness when NRL clubs resumed training a fortnight ago.

Doubts were cast over his leadership and ability to cover the necessary ground to play fullback, but Gagai says he has returned from shutdown in "outstanding" shape.

"He's a very confident player, we've all seen that. He's really taken on a leadership role from the back there and been really dominant," Gagai said.

"Coming back into the Bunnies, there was talk about his weight.

"The thing is you (media) don't see him in the gym. You see how competitive he is on the football field but no matter where he is, he's just got that desire to want to win another premiership.

"He's already got two and he's going for a third and you can see that in the gym, just his work ethic on the field and everywhere.

"All the players around him see that and when you've got someone like that it's very infectious."