‘I’ve changed my attitude’: Latrell Mitchell enjoying footy again as Souths rout Titans

Latrell Mitchell is enjoying his footy again — a delight for NRL fans, but a nightmare for the Gold Coast Titans.

Mitchell starred for South Sydney as the Rabbitohs brought the Titans back to reality, after they last week ended a year-long losing streak.

The Rabbitohs, meanwhile, were making amends for their performance a week ago, when they made about every mistake possible in a 22-8 loss to the Melbourne Storm.

While Mitchell was solid in that outing, he had his best game in Rabbitohs colours as they trounced the Titans 32-12.

Mitchell scored a try and set up three others — one with a kick, one with a crafty tap-on and one with some fancy footwork — on Saturday afternoon, also cleaning up well at the back in his role as Souths’ custodian.

Mitchell’s effort can be attributed to the 15th-ranked opposition or the return of playmaker Cody Walker in the halves, but perhaps the biggest difference is playing with some joy.

After a difficult few months — including relentless racist abuse on social media, contract speculation in traditional media, and a serious mistake in social distancing that attracted the attention of NSW Police — Mitchell is back on the footy field and is, as he simply put it, “happy”.

Latrell Mitchell stands and shouts while surrounded by kneeling Indigenous All Stars during a war cry.

Latrell Mitchell stands and shouts while surrounded by kneeling Indigenous All Stars during a war cry.

Latrell Mitchell has made some mistakes but has attracted a disproportionate level of criticism.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga asked Mitchell on Fox Sports about how he was gelling with the Souths system and how he was “feeling about life in general”.

“Look, I’m happy. Not too many things have been going my way the last four to five months, but it’s only upon me,” he said.

“I’ve seen in the media, everyone’s got an opinion and just for myself, it’s up to me to change that.

“[Then] I can come and do my job and enjoy my footy.”

Mitchell signalled his intent early at Central Coast Stadium, bursting over for the opening try in the fourth minute off a Damien Cook short ball despite a fumble.

He then tapped a pass for winger Dane Gagai to score while under pressure from on-rushing Titans defence, and a few minutes later grubbered through for centre Braidon Burns to score after Anthony Don failed to handle.

Then, with the game effectively decided in the 75th minute, Mitchell bamboozled Jai Arrow with a stutter step to create an overlap and send Gagai over for his second try of the night.

Mitchell has attracted disproportionate criticism for some of his mistakes and having one of the NRL’s greatest players happy and healthy was a sight to behold.

Dubious penalty helps Storm end Knights’ unbeaten run

The Parramatta Eels are the only undefeated team in the NRL this season after Melbourne handed Newcastle its first loss of the year.

The Storm jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the first half before the Knights got to within a converted try, only for the Storm to get handed two decisive points with a questionable penalty right in front in the closing stages.

Brandon Smith and Cameron Smith shout as they hug during the Melbourne Storm's NRL win over the Newcastle Knights.

Brandon Smith and Cameron Smith shout as they hug during the Melbourne Storm's NRL win over the Newcastle Knights.

Brandon and Cameron Smith orchestrated the Knights’ first loss of the year.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

A try to Brandon Smith in 76th minute pushed the lead out to a comprehensive 26-12, but the penalty a few minutes earlier had already put the game to bed.

Despite trailing 18-12, the Knights had the momentum in the 73rd minute as the Storm were attacking inside the 10-metre area.

A standard fifth-tackle play appeared to end in a penalty for the Knights for an illegal collision between Josh Addo-Carr and Hymel Hunt, but the play was called back to the middle of the field.

Officials said Knights prop David Klemmer hit Dale Finucane illegally off the ball while the Storm back rower was running a decoy line on a block play.

He ran straight into Klemmer, who made what seemed an innocuous tackle, but referee Ben Cummins awarded a penalty and Cameron Smith, who played one of his best games of the season, potted two points to push the lead out to eight points.

The win allowed the Storm to leapfrog the Knights for second spot on ladder with four wins from five games, while the Knights fell to third spot with three wins, a draw and a loss.

But that only lasted for a couple of hours, with Canberra beating the Tigers 14-6 on Saturday night to jump to second spot.