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South Sydney premiership hopes have been dealt a blow with Latrell Mitchell ruled out for eight weeks, which also means Brad Fittler will have to find a new center for the State of Origin series opener.
Blake Taaffe is likely to replace Rabbitohs fullback while Mitchell is sidelined, but it’s an unwelcome headache for rookie coach Jason Demetriou with his side 2-3 for the season following Saturday night’s win over struggling St George Illawarra.
Mitchell was an almost certain selection for the Blues at centre, with fellow specialist full-back Tom Trbojevic, with skipper James Tedesco the No.1 shirt holder.
He has virtually no chance of being fit for June 8’s Origin I showdown with Queensland at the Accor Stadium.
Fittler has several options with Canberra’s Jack Wighton able to slot into centers or he could choose a specialist like Mitchell’s Souths team-mate Campbell Graham, Brisbane speedster Kotoni Staggs, Penrith’s Stephen Crichton or St George Illawarra’s Zac Lomax , both of whom have been part of the Origin Camps for the past few years, but have yet to debut.
Cronulla’s Jesse Ramien has been in fine form this season and could be an option while Newcastle’s Bradman Best is seen as an Origin player of the future.
The Rabbitohs announced on Monday that scans confirmed Mitchell tore his hamstring in the emphatic 24-12 win over the Dragons. He reported feeling a pull in his hamstrings and the MRI revealed it was in the tendon, not the muscle, meaning recovery will be much slower.
Forward rower Mark Nicholls underwent surgery after sustaining a syndesmosis injury the previous week and the veteran forward is looking to return in the first or second week of June, like Mitchell.