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Cowboy's sacrifice 'pays' off

Having shared in North Queensland's Auckland Nines triumph, Anthony Mitchell (centre) gets his first chance in the NRL proper for 2014 on Saturday night. Copyright: www.photosport.co.nz
He's the cash-splashing, train-station-toting, make-believe property mogul who, with that out of control upper lip, bears striking resemblance to a young Rich Uncle Pennybags himself.

Cowboys hooker Anthony Mitchell loves his Monopoly and while the simple board game is known as a catalyst for fractured relationships (most of us can relate), the fantasy world of buying, selling and trading instead represents a solacing outlet for the 24-year-old.

Two months ago Mitchell made a pact with Intrust Super Cup teammate Sam Hoare to live healthily and "cut out all the bad stuff" for the first few weeks of the NRL season.

The agreement was one of accountability – fittingly enough, a tagline of Cowboys coach Paul Green – and sacrifice.

"We made a commitment before Round 1 that we wanted to do everything possible to make sure we are putting our hand up and showing 'Greeny' that we are keen contenders and want to be part of the first grade team, not just in the Q-Cup side," Mitchell said.

"Instead of going into Mackay and having a drink, we're now staying in of a Saturday night. And if we are going to have a feed somewhere, we'll make sure it won't be a fast food joint.

"We'll text each other and give encouragement, like, 'Nah mate, four more weeks left', that type of stuff.

"We finished our eight weeks this past weekend actually and had a couple beers, but to be honest it wasn't even that much of a celebration. It was like, we had done it and we'll go again, sort of thing. We will most likely stay off it, we both just feel a lot fresher."

The entrepreneurial adventures of Monopoly have in fact been a Saturday night staple for the bonding of a young group of Cowboys squad members… not that there haven't been arguments in between.

"We've got the game on iPad, so there's a fair few of us and it gets heated. If you try to trade at the right times with people and they brush you off, it can get aggressive for sure," Mitchell said.

"Grudges are held all day really, we just won't talk to each other."

This Saturday evening will see a vastly different kind of competition for the Townsville product after he earned his first call-up for 2014, filling the interchange hooker void which was left by Ray Thompson who slots in at halfback to replace the relegated Robert Lui.

After cutting his teeth in the Intrust Super Cup over the past eight weeks, Mitchell sees his inclusion into the 17 as well-earned and is looking forward to imposing his own brand on Saturday's game.

"I'm definitely keen to stamp my authority and get a few more games than just this one," he said.

"My job as a hooker is to make sure we're getting on the front foot and making sure that we're sticking to our sets. I'm basically looking to give some dash out of dummy half and spark off the bench, something we have sort of lacked this year."

Last year was an admittedly frustrating one for Mitchell after being called up then demoted numerous times throughout, something he found hard to deal with.

"Having consistency and knowing your spot is safe is just huge. Last year I'd had two weeks then I'd be out and then I'd be back in for another two weeks then I'd be out again," he recalled.

"There was just no time to find my feet. I was pretty angry with how that was happening because I just wanted to get some consistency with the game and I didn't feel like I was playing bad football. I suppose the coach at that time wanted to make different changes."

While reserve grade does not get the same amount of exposure as the main game, Mitchell lauds the mentoring of North Queensland's coaching staff, saying there is never any risk of being mired in the second tier comp.

"We have coaching staff here that look at the video every week, so we're not under a stone or anything like that where they can't see what we're doing," Mitchell said. "All the coaching staff are pretty committed to making sure that our whole squad of 30 is a chance of playing. 

"There's never a chance of not being noticed in the Q-Cup, they are pretty good for that. If you are playing well, you will get picked."

In the way of being noticed this Saturday night… not to worry. That moustache will be coming at you from dozens of different camera angles.

And if he performs on the big stage, here's hoping a few more 'chance' cards are in the mix.

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