South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell has officially withdrawn from Origin III selection, urging NSW selectors not to overlook Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton for the decider.
Mitchell made an impressive comeback from a hamstring that had sidelined him for 12 weeks on Saturday night and immediately announced that he wanted to end speculation he could return for the Blues on July 13 at Suncorp Stadium.
"I think I'm going to shut those headlines down now, I'm going to pull myself out and worry about Souths and focus on myself," Mitchell told Fox League.
"They've got a real good team there, NSW, and good luck to them and Burton in the centres. Give Crichton a go too, let him bleed in. I really want to focus on South Sydney and getting myself right for the backend of the season."
Mitchell was a key figure in NSW's 2021 series win and would have been one of the first players picked for the opening two Origins if he had been fit.
Despite the Blues levelling the series with a crushing 36-12 defeat of Queensland in Perth last Sunday, the availability of Mitchell and Jack Wighton posed a selection headache for NSW coach Brad Fittler.
However, Mitchell said he didn't feel right about coming into the team after just one match for the Rabbitohs since round five, especially given how well Burton and Crichton had played last weekend.
“I am going to focus on South Sydney, focus on myself and get myself right," he told ABC radio. "They have got some good fellows in there, and they have played really well through the year so let them go, and see what happens."
Mitchell, who started the match at fullback but also spent time in the centres when Campbell Graham went off for a HIA, ran 142 metres with 16 carries of the ball and made six line-breaks.
“I really enjoyed playing rugby league again, getting out there with my mates and representing the South Sydney Rabbitohs," Mitchell said.
"I felt alright out there. I think it will be two, three or four more games [before he is back to full fitness]. I am not here to break records, I am here to play for South Sydney and play my style of footy. I know where I have got to be and I will get there.
“I am really happy with the way I have prepared myself and got myself to a point to play. Twelve weeks is a very long time but mentally I ripped in and I got it done. It just shows out there."
NSW hooker and Rabbitohs team-mate Damien Cook, who scored a second half try after a bumping run by Mitchell, said it was a selfless decision for him to withdraw from Origin selection.
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"He was one of the stars of the series last year, along with Tom Trbojevic, and injuries sort of hurt that, but it makes Freddy's decision a lot easier I am sure," Cook said.
"For Latrell, with what he did tonight, to take himself out of that selection process, I am really proud to be a senior player here.
"With all the work he has done the last 12 weeks to get himself right and now to put South Sydney first I am really proud of him. He played great tonight and it is just great to have him back."
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said Mitchell's decision was also a show of faith in the Blues squad that have played the opening two matches.
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"I think it shows a fair bit of commitment from him to his team-mates and to his club that he wants to perform here, but I think it shows a bit of respect to the Blues, as well.
"After a great performance, he is confident those guys can get the job done."