Lay off Latrell: Cronk backs Mitchell to get back to his best

Cooper Cronk has dismissed suggestions Latrell Mitchell would be a liability if chosen for NSW, predicting the star will remain a nightmare to mark up on at any level.

Mitchell’s place in the Blues line-up has been questioned after a listless performance in the opening Origin encounter. Coach Brad Fittler claims the star centre “needs to work on his motivation”, while former Blues coach Phil Gould believes his presence around camp has the potential to be a “distraction”.

Best to come: Cooper Cronk believes Latrell Mitchell will find his mojo again for the Roosters. Credit:AAP

Mitchell himself recently conceded there were days he was bedridden after a messy split with his former manager, but up until recently he was one of the form players of the competition.

Roosters teammate Cronk has seen no discernible change in Mitchell’s demeanor and believes speculation about his focus on and off the field is unwarranted.

“I would imagine most of the people having those comments aren’t part of the inner sanctum and don’t walk around Latrell’s footprint,” Cronk said. “I don’t understand where it’s all coming from.

Three weeks ago he played the best game any young kid has played in rugby league history; now he isn’t happy or playing well. I’ve played some good games, some really bad games and some games in the middle. That’s football. It’s not how you play, it’s how you respond.

“Trust me, if I was an opposition player I wouldn’t want Latrell Mitchell playing in the Roosters football team or the NSW team. Cool the jets, just relax. He knows what he is doing. There is one good man who is the coach of this football side [Trent Robinson] who knows how to get that guy playing his best footy and generally happy.”

Mitchell, currently on a deal worth about half his market value, can formally negotiate with rival clubs from November 1. Speaking on Nine’s 100% Footy, Gould questioned whether the 21-year-old was in the right headspace for Origin.

“[The Roosters] are concerned about him and they’ve got to be delicate about it because they want to re-sign him,” Gould said. “Will he be a distraction or will he be an asset and in his current frame of mind … he’ll be a distraction.

“He and the Roosters need to come to the Origin coach and say we’ve sorted this … if they can’t do that Freddy’s got to move on and get on with something else.”

Inner sanctum: Cronk doesn’t think the fears about Mitchell are anything to worry about.Credit:AAP

Told that Gould was one of Mitchell’s critics, Cronk said: “Phil has every right. It’s a 24/7 news cycle. He is able to call it as he sees it. I don’t think Phil Gould is in the phone contacts of Latrell Mitchell in terms of catching up and he would regularly know Latrell’s position on anything.”

The Roosters have secured the services of promising teen playmaker Sam Walker, the son of former Bronco Ben Walker, from next season. Walker will turn 17 this weekend and will be groomed as the long term replacement for Cronk, who retires at season’s end.

“As long as he isn’t ready to play this week or at some stage this year I’m more than happy for him to come on down,” Cronk said. “It’s part of my job description; while we’re here to be judged on how we play and win, I’m more than happy to pass on all the information as long as the kid has a good work ethic, shows humility and is respectful to this club and what has gone on before it then I’m happy to help him out where I can. If the Roosters organisation hold him as a potential player of the future, he must have some talent.”

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