South Sydney Rabbitohs interim coach Ben Hornby has confirmed there was never any thought of star Latrell Mitchell returning in the centres.

Speculation had been mounting during his suspension that Mitchell may have been slated to return at centre after a difficult start to the 2024 campaign.

Any chance of that was taken away during Thursday night's heavy loss to three-time defending premiers the Penrith Panthers though when Jye Gray went down with an ankle injury.

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While he will spend time on the sidelines, Hornby, who took over from now sacked coach Jason Demetriou this week told the media that there was never a chance of Mitchell returning in the centres during his post-match press conference.

Gray, who had set the NSW Cup alight during the early weeks of the season before replacing Mitchell, is understood to have a suspected syndesmosis injury, while Dean Hawkins is also set to miss time with an injury.

“Not good,” Hornby said on the injuries after the loss.

“Jye looks like he's got a syndesmosis and Dean's got a quad strain so not ideal.”

Mitchell's return from suspension for next week's clash against the St George Illawarra Dragons means that will be a straight swap.

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Replacing Hawkins will likely prove a tougher proposition for the Rabbitohs though, with Lachlan Ilias - who had started the year at halfback before being axed - recovering from a broken leg.

It likely leaves the Rabbitohs toying with the idea of moving Jack Wighton into the halves where he would form a new-look partnership with Cody Walker.

It's a partnership some fans thought they may have seen before now, but will carry significant questions given both players line up as five-eighths.

The Rabbitohs have won just one of their first eight games in 2024 and are anchored to the bottom of the table.