He is Ricky Stuart's great hope of leading the Canberra Raiders to new heights in 2015, but growing up playing for the Goulburn Stockmen all Mitch Cornish wanted to do was be Panthers and Roosters legend Brad Fittler.
Whether it was his mum preventing him from playing until she thought he was ready or his coach handing him a jersey other than the famed number six jumper, Cornish told NRL.com that he remembers being disappointed he couldn't emulate his idol at the time.
When he wasn't trying to follow in the former Blues and Kangaroos five-eighth's footsteps, Cornish was otherwise inspired by his dad when he finally trotted out on to Goulburn's North Park when he was 10-years-old.
"I remember my coach putting me out wider in the centres because I was a bit bigger than the rest of the team. I remember he gave me the number three jersey and I was filthy because I was a huge Brad Fittler fan and I wanted to wear the number six like 'Freddy' did so I wasn't happy with him," Cornish laughed.
"It took me a while to even play though initially. I wanted to play for a long time, ever since I was six I reckon, but mum wouldn't let me play until I was 10. I had to play soccer first and once under-10s came around, mum let me play – I think she thought I was a bit soft before that and couldn't handle it."
A Roosters fan growing up, all that changed for Cornish upon seeing the pathway fellow Goulburn locals were taking to play in the NRL at the Raiders.
A huge driving force behind Cornish shifting his allegiances to the Green Machine, and inspiring him to where he is today, was a 17-year-old Todd Carney making his NRL debut in Canberra way back in 2004 – a moment which has since been replicated by other Goulburn products in Joe and Mick Picker as well as current Canberra captain Jarrod Croker.
"I was a Roosters fan growing up but I probably swung towards the Raiders when Todd Carney started playing for them. I remember going to watch a couple of games when Todd was playing Harold Matthews and pretty much the next year he was playing first grade so I thought it was pretty cool," Cornish said.
"I knew 'Toddy' through the Stockmen and I thought it was pretty amazing seeing him play for Canberra and I definitely jumped on board then. After seeing Jarrod [Croker] go through the ranks soon after I realised that was the way I wanted to go too."
After making his way through Harold Matthews, SG Ball – where he played a variety of positions before settling on halfback – and NSW Cup with the Mounties, Cornish finally made his NRL debut in Round 11 last year.
Now 10 games into his career, Cornish said it took some getting used to being coached by Stuart, a Raiders legend in his own right.
"Me and my little brothers when we used to play footy in the backyard or on the trampoline we used to say that we were Ricky Stuart or Laurie Daley or Mal Meninga and emulate those blokes," Cornish said.
"Now I'm getting coached by one of them which is pretty cool. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself but it is all pretty cool mate."
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