Latrell Mitchell is in no rush to make a decision on his playing future and is still open to not only returning to the Roosters next season but extending his career at the club.
Mitchell escaped the rat race in Sydney over the past week to spend time in country NSW and avoid the scrutiny as the spotlight intensifies around his playing future.
The 22-year-old told NRL.com he had not closed the door on any option for 2020 and beyond as he weighs up whether to explore a new opportunity at another club or to head back to the Roosters where he was a key member of the club's back-to-back premiership victories.
He also spoke in great detail about his eventful season on and off the field, including his controversial omission from the NSW side after the Origin I loss, calling out racist abuse on social media and how the acute focus on him had affected his mental health and his family.
Mitchell conceded he had put in a poor performance for the Blues but was left disappointed after coach Brad Fittler did not contact him after he was dropped from the team.
Repairing relationships at Roosters
On the club scene, Mitchell harbours no ill feelings towards Roosters chairman Nick Politis and coach Trent Robinson, and expressed his desire to potentially return to the fold if they were willing to welcome him back after a turbulent off-season in which the premiers pulled their offer of a contract extension for 2021 and beyond.
"I don’t wanna go into too much detail with that - it’s a business, they gotta do what they gotta do," he said.
"I’ve got no hard feelings about them. I still have another year with them and I still wanna keep that relationship no matter what happens.
"It’s always good not to burn your bridges. I’ve always been big on that. With whatever decision, I just don’t want to leave any bad blood."
When the Roosters took their contract extension off the table, Mitchell was rocked by their decision but he would love the opportunity to change their minds.
"I said to Trent, 'look, I want to go and explore my options, is that alright?' and he's like 'mate, you’re entitled to it'. That’s where it ended, pretty much and that's all I took out of it," he said.
"I said righto, well then I'm going to go see. Then I went to pub that day, having a beer here and there, and then see the Roosters pull out of Latrell Mitchell’s deal and I was like that’s a kick in the teeth.
"I will have a yarn with him and Nick when I get back. You can’t just sit back like little kids anymore. It’s money we’re talking about, it’s life after footy we’re talking about, I don’t want to muck that up for myself because people are in my way.
Latrell soaking in win
"I’ve done it all my life, no one is standing in my way for what I want.
"I’m going to get mine and do what I gotta do for my family and if that’s at the Roosters, then I’ll stay and cherish the jumper like I always have and I always will no matter where I go, if I go anywhere.
"The Roosters don’t understand how much of a home it is to me, they’ve given so much to my family."
Exploring his options
Mitchell has held discussions with the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers, who each withdrew their offer, while he met Cowboys coach Paul Green and club officials in Townsville and has spoken with Titans supremo Mal Meninga about a potential switch to the Gold Coast.
"I just want to see what else is out there. I'm entitled to," he said.
"I don’t need to make a decision, I just want to talk to these fellas and see what they’re offering and see what is out there, that’s all I wanted to do.
"I didn’t even say no to the Roosters' offer - that was the funniest thing.
"It’s just funny that everyone else is off contract and this and that at the same sort of time and it’s like everyone just wants to jam me and it’s like 'why?'. That’s what I ask myself every day.
"I just wanted to see where I can raise the bar with what I can earn.
"I’m open to everyone coming and having a yarn. But Roosters is my home, I’ve been there since I was 15 and got an opportunity to play and build myself into the player I am today. They’ve given me the tools but everything else I’ve done myself."
The intense scrutiny
As for accusations that North Queensland used him to convince Valentine Holmes to sign his deal with the club, Mitchell was bemused by that storyline.
"All that speculation with Val, if I did lure him there I did but I had a couple of yarns with him so I know what’s true," he said.
Mitchell said he opted to miss the Roosters' end-of-season trip to the United States because it would be better for his well-being as the scrutiny on his every movement was taking a toll.
“It’s been wearing on me. I’ve literally come to the point where I was breaking but I just thought if I’ve got my family around me I’ll be alright. That’s why I made the decision not to go to LA and be around the boys," he said.
"I was disappointed because I didn’t get to go and spend that time with them and celebrate but they know where I’m at, where my safe place is and that’s why I respect my teammates so much.
"I think it’s just connection to land, it just calls me all the time, it's weird I can't explain how it is. I’ve just gotta get away from the city get away from people that are bad for me.
"There’s been a lot of negativity and things going on, stories made up about me that are not true.
"I just come out here, my mum, dad, uncle, my brothers have all been really supportive. I’ve got a little girl [Inala] now.
"She has seen me sad and it’s pretty sad for me so I need to keep high spirits around her because she’s starting to get to that age knowing what’s wrong and what’s right."
The Origin omission
Mitchell finished the season playing strongly at representative level for the Kangaroos but after a poor game in the Origin series opener, he was dropped by NSW.
"I didn’t get told what I needed to work on. I know I played a bad game but it’s like I can’t play good every game," he said.
"I’m not going to go into too much detail with Freddy but I haven’t had a yarn with him. He said he was going to ring me and he still hasn’t rang me.
"Going back to that period I wasn’t switched on and there was a lot of things going on [away from football].
"That Origin was obviously a massive game and a lot of things go through your head when you play that game as well, if you’re not happy off field then you’re not going to perform and that’s where I was at."
Taking on racist trolls
One of the other flashpoints in season 2019 was Mitchell's brave stance against cowardly online trolls, who have racially vilified him over his Indigenous heritage.
"There's a long way to go for our culture to be even recognised as equal," he said.
"As soon as you stand up for yourself I guarantee you that the people that have been racist to you will stop straight away.
"That’s why it stopped for me now, so it’s good. I just stand up. But obviously with my platform and where I’m at people are going to keep doing it.
"I’ve had it for 22 years of my life. You know my mother and that have been kicked out of the local pool because they were black. I want to stand up for what I believe in, I’m not going to stop doing it.
"Our people are still having to cop racism on the daily. Just because you’re an NRL player, it doesn’t make you any less human than anyone else.
"I’m not saying it’s everyone either. I love being around my Aussie mates, they’re a spin-out, they're a different energy. It’s like why can’t everyone be like this?"