Mitchell seizes cruel opportunity
Cowboys hooker Anthony Mitchell has been given a cruel reminder of the extremes of life in the NRL, consoling a shattered teammate into the early hours of Sunday morning and then playing a major role in securing North Queensland's first title, the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
Travelling with the squad to Auckland as 17th man, Mitchell was sharing a room with Lachlan Coote for the week and sat up with him until 1am while the Panthers recruit came to terms with his season being effectively over before it had even begun.
The loss of Coote for six months with an ACL injury and a late hamstring injury to breakout player of the tournament Kyle Feldt were the only sour notes for the Cowboys who defeated the Panthers, Warriors and finally the Broncos in the finals after winning just one of their pool games and sneaking through on points differential.
Following the injury to Coote in their opening game against Manly, Mitchell was brought into the squad for what would be four games on Sunday and as he wore the winner's medal around his neck was able to reflect on an emotional 24 hours.
"It's a crushing thought about 'Cootey'. He's my roomie, I've got a lot of love for him, a lot of respect for him and it's awful to see that," Mitchell told NRL.com.
"A bloke that's worked really hard in the pre-season, had an outstanding pre-season, had a good game last weekend, for him to shorten up his season already it's a really bad situation.
"I was lucky in a way that I was the next man in and I got my chance. It's a bit surreal and to get the win, it's unbelievable.
"We've got to know each other over the pre-season obviously and we requested that we could be roomies for the weekend because we get along so well. At the end of the day it's footy and he's going to be back bigger and better.
"I just told him that I'm here to support him the whole time. We went up to the closest mini mart and got some junk food and said, 'Let's just have a night in, have a good laugh and worry about what you have to worry about later on and just have a bit of fun while we're over in Auckland.'
"We stayed up until about 1 o'clock and just had a yarn, watched some stupid clips on YouTube and Cootey ate some crap.
"He got some Pringles, he got some Kit Kats, he loves those Buenos chocolates; he got a few things. It was very sad but we had a good night. He's a very positive guy so he'll come back stronger than ever."
Used in rotation with Cameron King, Mitchell was impressive in the Cowboys' trial win over the Broncos in Redcliffe and is pushing for inclusion in the 17 for Round 1.
Ray Thompson is the favourite to wear the No.9 jersey for the opening game against the Raiders but Mitchell knows better than anyone to be ready when opportunity knocks.
"There are a lot of players there in that nine role," the 24-year-old admitted. "I'm just taking it day by day and hopefully get my opportunities and when I do I've just got to make sure I'm doing the right things and training hard.
"I had probably one of my best pre-seasons that I've had in first grade for a long time. I stripped a lot of weight and made sure I was on top of all my hydration and stuff and I suppose it was a reward that I got to come along on this trip and how the stars aligned I ended up getting a run.
"At this stage I don't know what Greeny [Cowboys coach Paul Green] is thinking but hopefully I'm in his mindset and I can get an opportunity to show that I want that nine [jersey]."