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Demetriou stands by Latrell at fullback as selection rumours circle struggling Bunnies

Jarred Cross -

Under pressure NRL coach Jason Demetriou is sticking by Latrell Mitchell to produce at fullback as external selection calls for South Sydney continue to dominate league headlines. 

The Bunnies are staring at their potential worst start to the season in over a decade ahead of meeting the Bulldogs on Friday night after a disastrous 48-6 loss to the Roosters to go 0-3 last week. 

Mitchell was one of many teammates who failed to get the best out of himself against their arch-rivals, prompting continued calls for Demetriou to consider major changes to the teams line up as their slump from first place mid-way through 2023 to missing finals extends further past the offseason break. 

Amid building pressure, 19-year-old fullback Jye Gray has been pointed to as a potential replacement in the no.1 jersey with suggestions Mitchell could move into the centres.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Demetriou said he was thinking long-term and looked to issue a reminder Gray was still a teenager with just two second-grade games under his belt. 

The coach said he had a “duty of care” to provide both the youngster and the team looking long-term. 

He went on to stand by Mitchell among growing calls for a change. 

“I'm not going to rush a 19-year-old kid in and to replace one of the best players in our club,” he said.

“Latrell's had some good times in the first two games and no one enjoyed last week. So it's up to us getting back to enjoying the things that give us energy and I've said before, it's all about effort for us. We need to get our effort right.”

Demetriou said at present, Mitchell focus “is on playing”, and defended his player on questions of how he is handling the pressure circling Souths.

Mitchell was named to start at fullback against the Bulldogs on Wednesday. 

Former Rabbitoh Blake Taaffe will line-up against Mitchell in the no.1 jumper at Canterbury, with Shaquai Mitchell returning for the Bunnies on the interchange bench. 

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