It's the photo that should put a smile on the face of every South Sydney fan as Latrell Mitchell's management gets ready for another round of contract talks.

After three months with no footy, Mitchell was not only in good spirits when he turned up on his day off for the Rabbitohs' NAIDOC event this week.

But he also looked to be in terrific shape as he recovers from that shocking hamstring injury that cut short his season just when his form at fullback was really starting to take off.

 

Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell attends a South Sydney NAIDOC Week event.
Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell attends a South Sydney NAIDOC Week event.


Already back doing light running and way ahead of schedule, Mitchell has been travelling down from Taree to Sydney for three days of intense rehab each week before returning home to enjoy time on his farm.

And while Mitchell's manager Matt Rose is expected to catch up with club chief executive Blake Solly next week to continue conversations about extending his stay at Souths, right now the main focus for the man himself is just getting himself ready for the 2021 NRL season.

If all continues to go to plan, Latrell is due back at the start of December to work with the rehab group full-time.

The aim is to have him ready to join the main group when the senior players and Origin stars return along with Wayne Bennett in early January.

Souths insiders say Latrell has been really diligent with his rehab during his time in Sydney and his attitude can't be faulted.

And he certainly doesn't look to be carrying anywhere near the weight he was when he first arrived at the club.

If he can be back in full training come January, he should be right to go for the start of the comp.

Latrell is expected to be back for the start of next season.
Latrell is expected to be back for the start of next season.

Latrell copped plenty for the way he handled his exit from the Roosters but he has done nothing but impress since his arrival at the Rabbitohs.

 

Turning up on his day off to attend the club's NAIDOC event was just another example of his willingness to help out.

 

Rose said given Latrell has a contract in place for 2021 there was no rush to get anything sorted out immediately on his long term future.

 

"This time he just wants to take his time and talk through it with Souths," Rose said, and given the commotion that surrounded him last year that's understandable.

 

"But the main thing for him right now is just having a bit of a rest and working on his rehab."

 

Souths will have a group of the younger players back on Monday to kick start the pre-season with a testing week.

 

That will be followed by more players returning on November 30, others on December 7, and the senior group after the Christmas/New Year break.

Cameron Murray hurt his hamstring early in the first Origin game.
Cameron Murray hurt his hamstring early in the first Origin game.

Meanwhile, Cameron Murray also hopes to be ready for pre-season by January with an expected six-to-eight week recovery for his hamstring injury suffered in the Origin opener in Adelaide.

 

DRAGONS REFUSE TO BUDGE ON PLAYER TRADE DEAL

 

New St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin has drawn his first line in the sand over the developing contract stalemate with rising star Jason Saab.

 

Griffin met with Saab's agent Mario Tartak during the week and made it crystal clear the talented 20-year-old will be made to honour the final two years of his contract.

 

That will only change if a suitable trade can be worked out in the coming weeks that does not disadvantage the Dragons.

 

The young winger was hoping to start pre-season training at Manly next week.

 

Instead Griffin expects to see Saab in Wollongong when the Dragons get back to work on Tuesday.

 

It's fair to say this is still a long way from being resolved and is not unlike Josh Addo-Carr's situation in Melbourne.

 

Saab, who has the same agent as Addo-Carr, has been seeking a release on compassionate grounds for some time now mainly because of the long commute from his family home in western Sydney to Wollongong.

 

But there is also a school of thought within the Dragons that it may also have something to do with the fact Saab could be in line for a contract upgrade at Manly given he initially signed for a very modest deal.

 

The Dragons had granted Saab permission to talk to other clubs but that was before Griffin arrived.

 

While Saab has since spoken out about how the Dragons allegedly backflipped on that agreement, the club maintains at no stage was there any guarantees unless a suitable deal could be worked out.

 

The player trade doesn't necessarily have to come from Manly, or even be a like-for-like outside back replacement.

 

It just has to be someone that the Dragons would agree is a fair exchange for Saab's significant talent.

Cody Ramsey will be one of the players looking to keep Jason Saab on the sidelines.
Cody Ramsey will be one of the players looking to keep Jason Saab on the sidelines.

Saab is a genuine contender for a starting spot on the wing in 2021 along with Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa and young Cody Ramsey.

 

The Dragons' maintain the club has done everything in its power to try and appease Saab's personal situation and will continue to work with him and his family to give Saab the best possible welfare and support so he can get his focus back on his football.

 

But what they won't be doing is caving in and releasing Saab unless it's also in the club's best interests.

MAROONS STAR EYES SHOCK NRL RETURN WITH BRONCOS

 

Former Queensland Origin star Will Chambers has made inquiries about an NRL swansong at the Broncos as Brisbane coach Kevin Walters declared he will not sack besieged props Matt Lodge and Joe Ofahengaue.

 

News Corp can reveal Chambers has held furtive discussions with Walters after sounding out his one-time Queensland coach about the prospect of a shock comeback to rugby league with the Broncos.

 

The Storm premiership-winner played all three Origin games last year under Walters before quitting Melbourne at the end of last season and defecting to rugby union with Japanese side Suntory.

 

But the worldwide COVID pandemic ultimately forced the suspension of Japan's Top League, prompting Chambers to reach out to Walters as he weighs up career options in his twilight years.

 

The Broncos enter the 2021 premiership gripped by a centre crisis. Veteran Darius Boyd, who played 11 games at left centre this year, has retired, while Brisbane's No.1 centre Kotoni Staggs is sidelined for the next seven months following a knee reconstruction.

 

Another centre option, Jack Bird, who wore the No.3 jumper in Cronulla's 2016 premiership win, was last week released to the Dragons, leaving the Broncos severely depleted in the three-quarter line.

 

That could open the door for Chambers. The veteran of 215 NRL games turns 33 next May and would bring some title-winning presence to Brisbane's backline, but one impediment is the Broncos' salary-cap situation.

 

Walters said he stays in touch with Chambers, who also has interest from a NSW-based NRL club, but concedes the Broncos will struggle to afford the former Australian centre at this stage.

 

"We don't have any space for anyone right now in the salary cap, so what we have on our roster is what we have," Walters said.

 

"I speak to Will a couple of times a year through our associations in Melbourne (where Walters was an assistant coach) and with the Queensland Origin team.

The loss of Jack Bird has depleted the Broncos centre options.
The loss of Jack Bird has depleted the Broncos centre options.

"We have a committee that make decisions on recruitment ... Will is over in Japan playing rugby, that's about all I know."

 

LOCKED AND LOADED

 

- Melbourne prop Albert Vete has joined English Super League side Hull KR on a two-year deal

 

- Outside back Reimis Smith has officially joined Melbourne on a two-year deal after being released by the Bulldogs

 

- State of Origin flyer Josh Addo-Carr is staying put in Melbourne for the 2021 after the Storm blocked his request for an early release to return to Sydney next year

 

- Newcastle's longest-serving player Sione Mata'utia has been released from the final year of his contract and joined English Super League's St Helens on a three-year deal

 

- Bulldogs outside back Marcelo Montoya has signed a two-year deal with the Warriors

 

- Blake Green has backflipped on his move to Canterbury and will stay with the Knights for 2021

 

- Official confirmation of Adam Keighran's move to Sydney Roosters is imminent. The former New Zealand Warriors playmaker has inked a two-year deal with Bondi club

 

COWBOYS CHASE MORE TALENT

 

North Queensland has one roster spot left for the 2021 season - and new coach Todd Payten knows exactly how he wants to fill it.

 

"We're looking for an outstanding outside back - try-scoring, good defender, breaks tackles," Payten said.

 

"We've got a couple of names on a list, the thing that works against us is the amount of money that we've got left to spend."

 

 

Cut-price jet ready to accept rookie salary

 

 

James Roberts is preparing to take a near $400,000 pay cut to rekindle his NRL career after a secret meeting with the Wests Tigers.

The Tigers are unlikely to pursue the man known as 'Jimmy the Jet', despite the former NSW centre's asking price dipping below that of some rookie players.

Once able to command about $550,000 on the open market, Roberts is prepared to accept around $130,000 to show he can still be a first grade player.

Tigers boss Justin Pascoe, head of football Adam Hartigan and Roberts met at an inner-west cafe on Thursday morning. Roberts was joined by his manager Warwick Wright.

 

James Roberts at a cafe in Concord on Thursday. Picture: DIIMEX
James Roberts at a cafe in Concord on Thursday. Picture: DIIMEX

Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis said the meeting, which took place before the club was officially told that premier target Josh Addo-Carr would remain in Melbourne, was more about checking in on Roberts' welfare.

"Justin has a history with James from their Penrith days," Hagipantelis said. "They reached out to see how he was, where he is at and what his thoughts are his own future. There was nothing more concrete then that.

"He has had a difficult year. There was no discussions of contracts or money."

Of greater concern for the Tigers though is ensuring prop Josh Aloiai, who has emerged as a potential replacement for representative prop Addin Fonua-Blake at Manly, remains at the club.

 

James Roberts scores against the Tigers in round nine, the team he is potentially looking to join in 2021. Picture: Brett Costello
James Roberts scores against the Tigers in round nine, the team he is potentially looking to join in 2021. Picture: Brett Costello

Aloiai is in in-depth discussions with the Sea Eagles about joining the club from 2022 with the door ajar for the Samoan representative to sign with the club as early as next season, if he can secure a release from the Tigers.

Aloiai, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Wednesday, is off-contract at the end of 2021 but is now free to negotiate with rival clubs for 2022.

Earlier this month, South Sydney released Roberts from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds.

Roberts, 27, hasn't played since suffering a pectoral injury earlier in the season.

He also checked himself into a mental health facility this year to help with personal issues reportedly related to anxiety and depression.

It is understood Newcastle and Canterbury are two clubs not entertaining signing the former NSW Origin representative.

 

Josh Addo-Carr celebrates a try with Clint Gutherson in Origin II. Picture: Brett Costello
Josh Addo-Carr celebrates a try with Clint Gutherson in Origin II. Picture: Brett Costello

 

The Tigers are expected to turn their attention to Penrith's Josh Mansour, who is chasing a three-year deal after being told he was no longer wanted at the Panthers.

The Tigers have been active in the player transfer market, also meeting with Josh Addo-Carr's agent Mario Tartak on Thursday, suffering another blow as the NSW Origin winger Josh Addo-Carr decided to remain at Melbourne next season.

Despite actively seeking a release from the final year of his Storm deal to return home to Sydney on compassionate grounds, and signing a heads of agreement to join the Tigers if he were to leave the Storm in 2021, Melbourne officials informed the Tigers on Thursday that Addo-Carr's request to switch clubs would not be granted.

Originally published as Transfer Talk: Dragons dig in over rising star, Latrell latest


Mullum could face water restrictions if rain doesn’t arrive

Premium Content Mullum could face water restrictions if rain doesn’t arrive

WET season “has not arrived as predicted” and flows into the weir are almost...

HIT AND RUN ADMISSION: Driver says he was negligent

Premium Content HIT AND RUN ADMISSION: Driver says he was negligent

Tim Watkins was killed in a hit and run incident at Wilsons Creek