Bennett reveals how Rabbitohs retained Latrell Mitchell despite big money offers
Latrell Mitchell will knock back the chance to join the NRL rich list with Wayne Bennett revealing how the club kept its superstar.
James Phelps and Peter Badel
February 14, 2021 - 9:07AM
News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
Latrell Mitchell will not become the NRL’s latest million dollar a year man with the fullback set to shun the open market and sign a cut-price deal to remain a Rabbitoh by signing a new two-year deal.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the biggest name in rugby league will knock back the chance to join the NRL rich list and earn as much as $1.2m a season with a rival club after South Sydney agreed to the short deal demand that will keep him at the club for at least another two years.
Reported to be in a standoff with South Sydney management because the club wanted him to commit to long term deal, Mitchell could re-sign as soon as this week with the Rabbitohs set to offer him the two year deal he has asked for.
Rest easy Rabbitohs fans, Latrell Mitchell is staying at Redfern. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
“We don’t intend to comment on the negotiation after the way his last deal was played out very publicly,” said Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly.
“But as far as we are concerned there is no issue with him wanting two years. All I will say is we expect to have an announcement sooner rather than later.”
Having indicated through his management that he was willing to recommit to the club for the below market rate of $875,000 earlier this year, the only stumbling block to the new deal was the length of the contract.
Reported to have been offered a four year deal that was subsequently revised to three, Mitchell stood firm on his two year demand in a move that attracted the interest of NRL rivals headlined by the Broncos.
Mitchell could have attracted offers of up to $1.2m had a bidding war broke out.
Latrell Mitchell wasn’t chasing more money to stay at South Sydney. Picture: Phil Hillyard
“It has never been about money,” said a source close to Mitchell.
“He wants to be at the Rabbitohs and is willing to play for a lot less than he could command elsewhere because he believes he will have success with this team and he wants to do his bit to make sure they stay together. The only issue has been with the term.”
It is understood Mitchell’s desire for success is also the reason behind his two-year deal demand.
While Mitchell is confident the Rabbitohs will remain a force in the short term, the former Test star is reluctant to sign a long-term deal with a club that has 13 players coming off-contract this year alone.
Wayne Bennett’s impending coaching retirement is also a concern with the highly regarded but NRL unproven Jason Demetriou to replace the most successful coach of the modern era beginning next year.
“He wants to make sure he is at a successful club,” the source said.
“He will do his bit to keep the boys together but no-one can predict where things will be at in a couple of years”.
Wayne Bennett has laughed off suggestions Latrell Mitchell would leave South Sydney. Picture: Dylan Robinson
BRONCOS AMONG 12 CLUBS SET TO MISS OUT ON LATRELL
Souths coach Wayne Bennett has scoffed at suggestions Latrell Mitchell could be nabbed by the Broncos.
As Mitchell prepares to enter camp for the Indigenous-Maori All Stars clash in Townsville this Saturday Bennett said he had no fears about the NSW Origin sensation walking out on South Sydney.
Mitchell’s management held talks with Broncos coach Kevin Walters before Christmas as a staggering 12 clubs expressed interest in the off-contract Mitchell, who has become the most sought-after player in the code.
But Bennett insists there will be no furious bidding war for Mitchell.
“There’s always little issues to sort out with contracts but I’m confident both parties will get it right and Latrell will stay at South Sydney,” Bennett said.
“Latrell will always attract interest because he is so talented.
“I don’t believe Latrell will go the Broncos, Brisbane is not on his agenda, it’s really not. If he goes to the Broncos, he has a much longer drive back to Taree (his home town) than he does living in Sydney.
“Taree is a big part of who Latrell is.
“Latrell is happy at Souths and we are really happy with him, so we’re hoping he will stay. We’re negotiating now with his manager but I don’t expect any problems.”
Latrell Mitchell will be one of the main attractions of the Indigenous-All Stars clash at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Mitchell was snapped up by the Rabbitohs last year after a contractual fallout at arch rivals the Roosters and he initially struggled with his fitness in his move to fullback under Bennett.
But the 23-year-old began to find sizzling touch at the back end of 2020, only to suffer a season-ending hamstring injury on the eve of the NRL finals.
Mitchell will be one of the main attractions of the Indigenous-All Stars clash at Queensland Country Bank Stadium and Bennett believes the 102kg flyer will go to another level this year as Souths chase a 22nd premiership.
“Latrell can only get better at Souths,” he said.
“He started to hit his straps at the back end of last season when he suffered his hamstring injury, but he has come back in good shape.
Latrell Mitchell and Wayne Bennett quickly developed a close bond at the Rabbitohs.
“Latrell is one of the most special players I’ve coached, not just as a player, but as a bloke. I like Latrell’s honesty and what he stands for. He cares about his teammates and he is prepared to put the team first.
“I think Souths is the right club for Latrell. We suit his personality and he is close to some of the guys he has built relationships with in Indigenous camps.
“He is great to have around the club.”
The Bennett factor will be Souths’ trump card in keeping Mitchell at Redfern.
“We’re not sure in what capacity Wayne will be at Souths beyond this season so that’s a big consideration for Latrell,” said Mitchell’s management.
“Latrell is very close to Wayne, as are a number of players at Souths,
“We’ve had expressions of interest from just about every club in the game, so now we will see where things land.”