Star Blues centre Latrell Mitchell admits he didn't get involved enough in Wednesday night's State of Origin loss to Queensland but has defended his second half sin binning, saying: "I had to do it."
Mitchell watched Queensland draw level at 8-8 and then take the lead after he was sent to the sin bin midway through the second half, while his defensive combination with Cody Walker, Josh Addo-Carr and Boyd Cordner was found wanting and he failed to make an impact in attack.
"Myself, I could have got involved a lot more and injected myself but the game went the way it did and there is a lot of things I need to work on to fix that stuff up for the boys," Mitchell said.
"It was the first time defending with Cody inside me, I know Boyd is always going to turn up so it is just getting that connection, I guess. We know we have got the attack but it is just getting the defence right."
Asked to sum up his performance, Mitchell said: "Not my best."
Latrell admits he wasn't at his best
Mitchell did not return to Sydney with his NSW team-mates on Thursday and has reportedly driven to Taree to spend time with his family.
NSW coach Brad Fittler revealed Mitchell was unlikely to play for Sydney Roosters in Sunday's match against Penrith and said he needed to "work on his motivation" before Origin II in Perth on June 23.
"I know they’re not that happy at the Roosters and there’s a lot going on in his life at the moment with managers. There always seems to be something other than footy,” Fittler told reporters on Thursday.
“He’s a superstar, we all want him out there playing. It will be interesting. There are two weeks to go.
“One thing you have to understand is he’s young, he played in a winning Origin series last year, played for Australia, won a grand final, you have to give some people a break.
“He’ll go through these times while he’s young. The nature of State of Origin, you need to be at your best. He wasn’t at his best, that’s fair to say."
Just a month ago Mitchell was hailed as the best player in the game after a stunning performance for Roosters against Wests Tigers that NSW advisor Greg Alexander declared would have been worthy of a rare 10 out of 10 under the old Rugby League Week player ratings.
The 21-year-old superstar finished the Origin opener with just one line-break. But it was almost enough to snatch a late victory for the Blues after he returned from the sin bin and went for a sprint down the eastern touchline.
Mitchell told NRL.com afterwards that he might have been too excited about playing alongside Walker, who was the Indigenous captain in the All Stars match at the start of the season.
"I was excited to play with Cody and Foxx again, and Boyd," Mitchell said. "We are Koori fellows and we let the game come to us and instinct just kicks in.
"I have seen how Cody has been playing all year and I was really excited to get into camp with the boys and just be amongst it. I guess things didn't go the way we planned.
"It was a big game for Cody, it was his first ever big rep game and credit it to him, he really ripped in. It is rugby league, you win some and you lose some but we will be back stronger."
He felt "sick" after being sent to the sin bin in the 58th minute for a professional foul on Queensland second rower Matt Gillett, who appeared set to swoop on a Cameron Munster grubber and score.
Match officials considered awarding a penalty try but couldn't be sure Gillett would have scored if not held back by Mitchell as NSW fullback James Tedesco was also racing for the ball.
"If I don’t do it he scores, if I do do it he doesn't score," Mitchell said. "It is just hard to put myself in those situations. He grabs the ball and I try to hold him up … I had to do it.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
"It was just poor game management. We have got to work harder and take it to them in Perth."
It was the third consecutive Origin that the Blues have had a player sent to the sin bin, with James Roberts being banished in the second game of last year's series and James Maloney receiving his marching orders in the final match.
The 12-man NSW outfit almost looked like they may reclaim the lead as Mitchell was waiting to return to the field but a pass from Jack Wighton to Addo-Carr was intercepted by Maroons winger Dane Gagai, who ran 95 metres to score.
"I thought we defended really good when we were a man down, it happened to us last year and I thought we came together," halfback Nathan Cleary said. "It was just unfortunate. I though Jack did really well to get on the outside of Will Chambers and Gagai came up with a massive Origin play.
"That hurt, it was almost like a swing there. We almost scored in the corner with 12 men and then they are up the other end scoring and Latrell is coming back on."