NRL young gun Jye Gray should officially demote Latrell Mitchell from South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback jersey

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The gods have finally gifted Jason Demetriou a pleasant selection headache- and it’s not the chicken or the beef on his premature end-of-season flight to Phuket.

Rookie Jye Gray has not only been a gust of fresh air in a dog’s breath season for Souths, it has also presented the embattled coach with a quandary at fullback.

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Does he opt for the youth of the youngster, or the roulette wheel of Latrell Mitchell?

The answer is simple.

Demetriou needs to look to the future and anoint Gray as the club’s long term fullback, even though the coach’s future is a week-to-week proposition that probably won’t last beyond next bin night.

Right now, Mitchell is the favourite to regain his jersey based on a number of factors – incumbency, seniority, and the obligations of fullback money – but he shouldn’t be.

Not only is Gray young and cheap, he offers rare luxuries in the role not seen at Souths in some time, like effort and availability.

A five-eighth by trade, the pint-sized unit has impressed in his limited time in the top grade by outshining his more decorated teammates with gutsy returns and an unbroken soul.

Not only has he captured hearts with ballsy goal line take-downs of monsters like Nelson Asofa-Solomona, he has run the ball back with purpose when it must’ve felt like paddling on a cork top against a tsunami.

This has seen the 20-year-old churn out 188 run metres against the Storm and 148 against the Sharks, the latter achieved despite spending time off due to a HIA.

While nourishment by stats like running metres can be empty calories in appraising a footballer’s value, ‘running’ will always provide an edge in any debate against Mitchell.

The incumbent’s output prior to suspension – an average 121m for 2024 – was such that he probably registered more ripples on the VB Hard Earned Index while sidelined.

He even admitted this himself, with the rep star apologising to teammates following his harebrained suspension against the Warriors and vowing to light a fire under himself for the rest of the season.

But there’s no reason he can’t squat over a campfire out on an edge.

Shifting Mitchell from fullback would’ve once taken something drastic – like the end of the world – but Gray’s emergence is a rare slam-dunk problem-solver for Demetriou that he must grab with both hands before his next terminal loss.

Let the pocket rocket develop out the back in a season with nothing to lose, and shift Mitchell back to the position where he made his name.

The centre position is a safe space for the former Rooster. Not only is it a lane where he invariably reminds us of his talents, it also sequesters him as far away from the halfback’s chin as possible.

Whether for NSW or the Roosters, playing one-in from the sideline is where Mitchell has produced his finest samples of belligerence and skill.

Shifting him back allows him to play with sting instead of stamina, which surely is his preferred approach considering the numerous times he’s been caught offline at the back on airplane mode.

While it’s probably too early for Souths fans to brand Gray the second coming of Christ – a divine figure also known as Greg Inglis – he at least solves an awkward question about unseating the million-dollar man.

It’s a simple theory.

Latrell is a centre, Gray needs to stay in the team, and Souths fans need something to look forward to other than the end of the season.

Dane Eldridge is a warped cynic yearning for the glory days of rugby league, a time when the sponges were magic and the Mondays were mad. He’s never strapped on a boot in his life, and as such, should be taken with a grain of salt.

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