NRL 2022: Latrell Mitchell set to embark on 10-day US recovery mission in bid to fast-track Souths return
Latrell Mitchell is about to hit the city of the Rocky movies and cheesesteaks in a rarely-taken mission by NRL players, but one considered necessary to help him overcome his hamstring issues.
Operation Latrell Mitchell is set for take-off.
The injured South Sydney star has packed his bags for the most significant trip of his life, bound for the US to meet a Philadelphia-based miracle worker, who has rejuvenated the careers of the biggest names in world sport.
Mitchell admits he’s anxious.
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“I’m not a huge fan of travel unless it’s three hours to the farm at Taree,’’ he quipped during a club corporate event last Friday night.
The trip will include an attempt to meet with Australian NFL giant Jordan Mailata at his home base of the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as cultural and community work with locals, while also documenting his recovery-bid with a travelling videographer.
The Rabbitohs and NSW State of Origin star’s 22-hour journey, from Sydney later this week to the home of Rocky movies and cheesesteaks, is a rarely-taken mission by NRL players, but considered necessary to help Mitchell overcome a crippling hamstring injury and not the least, to try and save Souths’ stuttering season.
In addition to the repair of his hamstring tendon issue, the 24-year-old has also undergone knee surgery during the current period of which he’s been sidelined since April 9.
Mitchell will fly from Sydney to San Francisco, before boarding a connecting flight to Philadelphia where he will work one-on-one with world-renowned sports reconditioning expert Bill Knowles.
Aside from consulting to the most powerful sporting teams across the NBA, NFL and English Premier League, Knowles has helped return the likes of golfing legend Tiger Woods, tennis champion Andy Murray, NFL royalty Peyton Manning, England rugby union great Jonny Wilkinson, former Chelsea star Frank Lampard and AFL giant Nic Naitanui to the top of their respective sporting fields.
It was South Sydney’s head of high performance Travis Touma who instigated Mitchell’s trip to the US.
When working for the Roosters in 2015, Touma orchestrated a similar rehabilitation expedition for former winger Blake Ferguson when he was unable to run due to an ankle injury at a similar mid-point of the current NRL season.
Before visiting Knowles, the Roosters had hoped Ferguson would be fit for selection by round 18 that year.
He returned from the Knowles-trip to play in round 14.
At the time, the trip reportedly cost the Roosters $20,000.
Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly conceded Mitchell’s recovery mission was out of the ordinary for NRL players, but one the club were eager to explore given their marquee man has been hampered by hamstring injuries since 2020.
“Ultimately we’re focused on giving Latrell every opportunity to get back doing what he loves and that is playing for the Rabbitohs,’’ Solly said.
“Our intent is to make sure that not only is it a good trip for Latrell from a physical point of view, but from a psychological point of view it‘s good as well.
“There‘s a genuine belief based on research from within our high performance team that Latrell will gain plenty from stepping outside his normal schedule at the Rabbitohs and applying some different methods with Bill Knowles.
“I’m sure he’ll also take in some cultural experiences also with the local community.’’
Travelling with Mitchell is Rabbitohs assistant physiotherapist Luke Annesley and the Rabbitohs Digital Content Manager, Sunny Brar.
South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou explained why he was hoping Mitchell’s rehabilitation mission would be a success.
“It’ll be good for him as well to get away and focus on getting himself right outside of the NRL noise that surrounds him constantly so he’s in a great little headspace Latrell,” Demetriou said.
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“This will be a good little trip for him and we’ll get him back in the second half of the season flying for us which will be important.“It’s just about getting two weeks of really intense work from one of the best physios and rehab specialists in the world.
“Latrell’s a big player for us, he’s had his second problem with the tendon, we’re making sure we’re giving him the opportunity to get back and stay back.”