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'It's in the past': How Bennett helped Latrell mend Blues bridges

Latrell Mitchell concedes it's impossible to stay mad at Brad Fittler, but it's iconic Queensland coach Wayne Bennett who has played as big a role as any in the South Sydney star's Origin return.

Mitchell is back in sky-blue for the first time since being controversially dumped after 2019's Suncorp Stadium loss, and had little interest in rehashing his subsequent falling-out with Fittler on his first day in NSW camp.

Fittler and Mitchell are back on good terms with his form for South Sydney under Bennett impossible to ignore after they first cleared the air late last year.

It's a far cry from the reflection Mitchell offered on Denan Kemp's Bloke in a Bar podcast last November when he said: "I had a bit of a bias against [NSW] where I was like I don't want to play because I got dropped and I was sooking and kicking stones."

Asked if it was possible to stay mad at Fittler, one of rugby league's more affable characters, Mitchell responded: "No … I was never mad at him," before acknowledging similarities between the pair of them.

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"I'm happy go lucky and I think he is too. We just take the moments as they come.

"I guess we live a similar life, he's played footy. He's been there and done it and I'm here doing it. He's a good coach, a great coach."

Mitchell presented a straight bat to the fall-out from 2019, stressing any issues with his absence from the state side are "done. It's in the past.

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"I've got nothing to prove. I just want to kick back and play some good footy, score some tries in the sky-blue."

Bennett has long been one of the Maroons most revered figures, and since luring Mitchell to Redfern has been instrumental in his happy returns on and off the paddock.

Mitchell was far more forthcoming on his own development since last representing NSW, crediting Bennett for plenty along the way.

"I've got a beautiful family at home and they've made me realise what I need to do and what I need to achieve with myself and my footy," he said.

"I had to work out myself and what I wanted to do. I had to focus on my contract stuff with the move [to South Sydney]. I think I made a good move to where I am now and I'm playing good footy to get picked again.

"I've grown as a man and being a dad, having to show up every day. Being around Wayne has helped.

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"Being around him every day, having a laugh, talking footy and life, you can't get much better than Wayne Bennett."

Bennett could not be reached for comment on Monday, with Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly offering insight and congratulations to Mitchell, who will be one of seven Rabbitohs turning out in Townsville's first Origin next week.

Since arriving at Redfern Mitchell has continued his development as one of Australian sport's strongest Indigenous leaders while forging a strong bond with Bennett, the prize-winning coach almost 50 years his senior.

Bennett has long taken a "horses for courses" approach to individual players, with Rabbitohs teammates often poking fun at Mitchell's "golden boy" status under the veteran coach.

I had to work out myself and what I wanted to do.

Latrell Mitchell

The Rabbitohs mentor – who will return to the Sunshine State next year and hand control at Souths over to Jason Demetriou – has also encouraged Mitchell to return home to Taree as often as he likes, accompanying his star fullback to the North Coast town earlier this year.

"I see a bit of their relationship and I think Wayne's been essential in getting the smile back on Latrell's face and helping him enjoy his footy again," Solly told NRL.com.

"That relationship's very important. But Latrell's also matured himself as well generally.

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"I think most of his development has been driven by his own passion, intelligence and courage on several fronts.

"I think at the end of the day Wayne simply cares deeply about the players.

"I think that's what they see and that's what they respond to. Add happiness and security off the field and it translates onto the field.

"Wayne buys into their lives and they buy in back."