Sydney Roosters skipper James Tedesco loves the fiery side of Latrell Mitchell but says the banned South Sydney star needs to find some balance in his game to avoid “breaking people’s faces”.
The fallout from Friday night’s spiteful clash continues amid reports the Rabbitohs fullback had a verbal confrontation with angry ex-Roosters teammates outside the sheds after the game.
Mitchell will miss the rest of the NRL season and part of next season after pleading guilty to a grade-two reckless high tackle charge for a hit on Joey Manu that fractured the centre’s eye socket.
Manu underwent facial reconstruction surgery in a Brisbane hospital on Saturday. Mitchell and South Sydney accepted a six-week suspension rather than risk a potential nine-week ban by challenging it at the NRL judiciary.
While Tedesco’s main concern was for Manu, he said he did not think Mitchell acted maliciously. He did, however, urge 24-year-old Mitchell to learn his lesson.
“It happens pretty quickly when you’re a fullback. I don’t think Trell would do it on purpose, but it’s forceful contact with the head,” Tedesco said of his NSW Origin teammate.
“Whether it’s accidental or not, if it causes someone to break a fair amount of bones in their face, it must be a pretty forceful hit to the head. You just can’t do that.”
For the Blues and previously at the Roosters, Tedesco says has loved playing with firebrand Mitchell but admits the young superstar walks a fine line that can hurt people.
“I love Latrell. I love playing with Latrell. He’s a fiery player and he plays the game in that manner, he wants to be dominant,” Tedesco said. “He’s just got to be careful with it. He’s been in trouble with it before for making contact with the head and it’s happened again.
“He’s got to learn the lessons from that. He plays with fire and passion and that’s what makes him such a great player but it’s finding that balance of not over stepping the line. You don’t want to be breaking people’s faces.”
Since the incident, Mitchell has reportedly reached out to Manu to apologise while his former teammate recovers in hospital. Manu was expected to re-join the Roosters’ camp on Sunday night.
Mitchell’s suspension comes as a huge blow to the title chances for third-placed Souths, who can mathematically still finish in the top two with a win over St George Illawarra in the final round.
Without their star fullback the Rabbitohs will be forced to play either Blake Taafe, Cody Walker or Alex Johnston at No 1.
It will be the second year in a row Mitchell has missed the back end of the season for Souths, after injury forced him to miss the final seven games of 2020. The Rabbitohs lost three of those games without him, including the preliminary final against Penrith.