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   Jul 05

Sydney Roosters rising star Latrell Mitchell learning from his father’s mistakes

“I want to be a lifetime player at the Roosters: Young Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell. Photo: James AlcockLatrell Mitchell is every bit as talented as his old man.
Nanjing Night Net

But the big difference in his own shift from a Taree mission to the big smoke is being able to draw on his father’s experiences.

Mitchell, like doting dad Matt, left the country with his brother Shaquai to pursue his rugby league dream. As Matt will testify, the transition doesn’t always work.

“I didn’t have any family down there; it was hard,” Matt recalled.

“At times I was sleeping on Maroubra Beach. That’s not what I want for my boys.”

Homesickness wasn’t the only challenge Matt failed to overcome. Not long after being sent to Sydney, his father died, at the age of 43.

“I didn’t have anybody to give me advice,” said Matt, who coached his sons at club team Taree Red Rovers. “My old man had five other sons he had to raise. He said, ‘Son, I’ll send you down to the big smoke, there’s a bloke there to pick you up.’ That was it, see ya later. No advice.”

The same can’t be said of Latrell. The Roosters prodigy, considered the best young talent in the game, is forever speaking to his father to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistakes. Such as spiralling into dependence on speed, a move that ended what should have been a glorious footballing career.

“I was suffering from shin splints and I couldn’t get rid of them,” Matt said.

“Some bloke – I don’t know why I listened to him – said ‘take this stuff’. It got rid of the shin splints, but it started a little habit.

“So when I’m talking to the boys, I’m not preaching to them, I’m just saying ‘go nowhere near that’.”

The advice appears to be paying off. Ask Latrell about his heroes and he names Greg Inglis – a player to whom he has been unfairly compared – and his father in the same breath.

“When we get stuck with something we just ask him because he’s been here and lived the two lives, city and country,” Latrell said.

“When he talks, we listen because he’s been there and experienced it.”

On Wednesday night, Latrell will experience something else he and his father dreamed about. Despite just turning 18, the flashy fullback has been selected to represent NSW in the under 20s State of Origin curtain-raiser at Suncorp Stadium.

For most footballing fans, it will be the first opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. The Roosters have high hopes Mitchell will become the club’s long-term fullback and they re-signed him until the end of 2019, knowing there were a dozen clubs circling should he become a free agent.

However, not everyone recognised his undoubted talent. Mitchell turned up for a trial with Newcastle’s Harold Matthews team, but didn’t make the cut.

“I had a go with them and they thought I was too lazy,” Mitchell said.

“At the end of the day, it’s Newcastle. I don’t really like that side anyway. I’m glad I’m here.”

Here is Seven Hills, where he lives with older brother Shaquai, his grandmother, aunty and uncle.

The departure of Anthony Minichiello, coupled with the impending loss of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to the Warriors, has created a fullback opportunity at the Roosters. Whether Mitchell will be ready for it as early as next year remains to be seen. But after overcoming setbacks – such as breaking his collarbone running into Boyd Cordner in an opposed session – it appears only a matter of time before the chance presents itself.

“I don’t need to rush anything, Robbo [Roosters coach Trent Robinson] will know when it’s time,” he said.

“The goal is there, it’s only a couple of steps away. I want to be a lifetime player at the Roosters.”

That Mitchell has been compared to his hero Inglis is undue pressure on a teen yet to make a single first-grade appearance.

“It’s good that I’m being compared to him, but I don’t want to be him. I just want to me myself,” Latrell said.

“People say this and that but I’m not him.”

Matt added: “I got really cranky when I heard about it because it put a target on his head. When that story first broke he was playing the Broncos and … he’s saying, ‘they’re punching me in the face!’.

“It’s big shoes to fill. Hopefully he can just be Latrell Mitchell.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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