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I've seen a change in Latrell during suspension: Hornby

Jasper Bruce -

Ben Hornby says Latrell Mitchell has become a changed man during his suspension but warns South Sydney can't expect the fullback to be their saviour on his return.

Saturday's game against St George Illawarra will be Mitchell's first since receiving a three-match ban for elbowing Shaun Johnson in the head during the round-five loss to the Warriors.

Souths have undergone significant off-field upheaval since then, sacking coach Jason Demetriou, installing Hornby as his interim replacement and signing Lewis Dodd to play halfback from 2025.

Mitchell's return is a much-needed boost for last-placed Souths, whose injury crisis has become so dire they've called Queensland Cup player Gehamat Shibasaki in on a game-by-game basis and will start debutant Dion Teapua at halfback.

"It's great to have (Mitchell) back," Hornby said.

"Latrell is a big player obviously, big part of our team and you've seen when he plays we tend to do a lot better."

Mitchell's suspension marked the second time since August the fullback received a ban for dangerous contact at crucial junctures of the season.

In round 25 last year he elbowed Tyson Frizell in the head during a loss to Newcastle and was forced to watch Souths drop from finals contention by losing their next game.

Hornby believed Mitchell had learned from his latest indiscretion, saying his frustrated side had not come out during his ban.

"He's learned from that, he's dealt with it. He's come back, he's refreshed. We're looking forward to seeing him have a big impact on the game," Hornby said.

"The last couple of weeks, I've seen a real change in him.

"He's been doing a really good job at training the last couple of weeks, preparing the boys as best he can as well.

"He's really engaged at the moment and I'm sure you'll see the best Latrell we've seen for a little while."

But Souths need only look at last season for proof Mitchell's return can't be treated as a magic bullet solution.

The Rabbitohs fell into a form slump during Mitchell's seven-game calf injury lay-off but only won two of four games after he returned, ultimately finishing the season in 9th spot.

"We can't be relying on 'Trell' to win us this game," Hornby said.

"We've all got to be better, that's the reality. Latrell's no different there, he knows he needs to be better but as a collective we need to be better. That's what we're working on."

The Rabbitohs' list of outs numbers in the double digits across their top-30 squad as they prepare for Cody Walker's 200th NRL game.

But with Jacob Gagai, Richie Kennar and Alex Johnston all chances to return next week and suspended Taane Milne a certainty, Hornby hopes he will not need to source reinforcements.

"We're happy with the squad we've got. (Bringing more players) is a possibility, but at this stage we should get some blokes back next week. We'll just see how the weekend ends up," he said.

Jasper Bruce - AAP

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