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The Kangaroos could be without two of their biggest names with Latrell Mitchell to be ruled out of the end-of-season Test matches through injury and Valentine Holmes awaiting a possible sanction from the NRL over the white-bag scandal.
Mitchell, who was suspended for South Sydney’s final match of the season against the Roosters when they tumbled out of the finals race, is due to visit a surgeon on Tuesday to assess a hand injury.
There’s no guarantee the Rabbitohs ace will need surgery, but club sources said the fullback had been carrying the injury since his return game against Wests Tigers in Tamworth.
It was the first time Mitchell had played for his club in almost three months after a calf complaint picked up in State of Origin camp, and the Rabbitohs have become sufficiently worried about the long-term prognosis to seek guidance on whether he needs to go under the knife.
The 26-year-old endured a turbulent month in which he was thrust front and centre in the club’s late-season turmoil, which saw assistant coach Sam Burgess walk away from the Rabbitohs amid speculation he was unhappy Mitchell and Cody Walker had been afforded special treatment.
Mitchell’s withdrawal from the Pacific Championships will leave Australia coach Mal Meninga without one of his biggest weapons, and means Mitchell is unlikely to be seen again in a competitive match until South Sydney play Manly in the NRL’s historic Las Vegas double-header to open next season.
Latrell Mitchell looks on after South Sydney’s season ended.Credit: Getty
Holmes is also bracing for significant news after a photo circulated on social media on Sunday of the Cowboys and Kangaroos star with a white bag in his mouth.
Holmes spoke with NRL integrity unit officials on Monday to address the matter, the second time in two years a high-profile star had gone viral on social media with a substance during end-of-year celebrations. In 2021, a video emerged of Melbourne Storm trio Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith and Chris Lewis partying in a hotel with what appeared to be a white substance on a table. The NRL suspended each player for one match and fined Munster $30,000, Smith $15,000 and Lewis $4000.
Holmes has told club officials it was a joke gone wrong, but the NRL will still take a dim view of the image as it ponders any punishment.
The 28-year-old faces a fine at a minimum. If the offence is considered more serious, Holmes could be suspended for two matches.
The social media scandal has been another black eye for the NRL during its highly anticipated finals series, despite the image on Holmes’ personal Instagram account being deleted within minutes on Saturday night.
Holmes, a premiership winner with Cronulla in 2016, is one of the biggest stars of the sport but his hopes of immediately adding to his 12 Tests for Australia are in grave jeopardy if the NRL comes down hard on the transgression.
Holmes and Cowboys teammates Reuben Cotter, Reece Robson and Murray Taulagi were all added to Meninga’s train-on squad with Mitchell joining Campbell Graham, Cameron Murray and Walker from the Rabbitohs.
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