Sky's the limit for Latrell Mitchell
He might be just three games into his NRL career, but Roosters fullback Latrell Mitchell is already a star on the rise.
Mitchell started the season on the wing but was quickly shifted to his preferred position after just one game by Roosters coach Trent Robinson; a move that has seen his running metres go from 54 in Round 1, to over 125 metres per game since.
His size, speed and ability to beat defenders in a variety of ways makes him an all-round attacking weapon that has helped the club recover from the loss of its former fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck more easily than expected.
While his career is still in its infancy, the Roosters new No.1 has already achieved so much in the game. Mitchell was named the club's SG Ball Player of the Year in 2014, made the 2015 Holden Cup Team of the Year, and has already represented NSW in under-16s and under-18s State of Origin.
He flourished at the Auckland Nines, scoring three tries from as many games, before playing a starring role in the World Club Series in the UK.
Mitchell's early season performances were enough to convince Robinson that he was ready for the NRL – despite being just 18 years old – and it's that faith that has made the move to first-grade feel so natural.
"Robbo wasn't going to just chuck me in," Mitchell said.
"I just said, 'It's up to you. You're the coach, you'll know when I'm ready. I'm just trying to enjoy myself being an 18-year-old playing 20s.'
"I was just loving it there, and he was like 'Mate, I think you're ready'. I just thought 'here we go, I'm up for the challenge'.
"I'm just learning. Being a young fella, coming up through the grades, and now I'm playing NRL, it's sort of a big step. Robbo's given me the opportunity and I'm really enjoying it, playing footy on the big stage."
Having starred for the Roosters in the Holden Cup, Mitchell's biggest challenge was always going to be whether his maturing body could handle the rigours of first-grade footy against bigger and more hardened bodies.
The rookie fullback has looked largely unfazed by the increased workload, but admits he's still getting used to the speed of the NRL.
"Pretty sore after last week, getting a bit rattled, but I'm loving it. I'm loving the contact," he said.
"Oh I'm blowing a bit. I was pretty tired after the first three rounds. Hopefully the match fitness starts kicking in.
"The fullback position sort of went to the next level. I thought playing 20s, it wasn't easy, but it wasn't as intense as it is in the NRL. It was a big step, but I'm up for the challenge if Robbo gives me the chance for the rest of the season."
Mitchell could be excused for letting his newfound stardom get to his head, but he has shown maturity beyond his years to ignore it and instead focus on the game.
"It's just noise in the background," the fullback said.
"I don't like to get a big head over it. I just want to enjoy being a kid playing the game that I love. On Facebook, I sort of just block it away or turn my phone off and don't look at it."
His fellow Roosters have been taken aback by his start, with Mitchell Aubusson declaring his young teammate has the potential to do whatever he wants in the game.
"I suppose that's up to him," Aubusson said.
"He's got to keep working hard and learn as much as he can. All the natural ability is there, and if he does that then the sky's the limit.
"He's a character, Latrell. He's worked really hard during the pre-season and he's such a good young footy player.
"I can't wait to see where he's going to get in his footy career. At the moment he's shown glimpses of what he can do, and he'll keep on working. I just wish I was that good when I was his age."