Rookie Roosters fullback Latrell Mitchell's amazing attacking gifts were again on display in his side's narrow 22-18 loss at Parramatta on Friday night but his coach has given a blunt assessment of his work off the ball while Eels playmaker Corey Norman has revealed his plan to target Mitchell with his kicking game paid dividends.
The 19-year-old is a major contender for rookie of the season after showing an amazing arsenal of attacking skills and so far playing every Roosters game this year.
But as a teenager he is still learning the complicated art of defending at the back in the NRL, especially in positional terms, as well as helping organise a team's defence from the back, and his coach Trent Robinson admitted the youngster is currently on a steep learning curve.
Norman terrorised the Roosters with his long and short kicking game in the come-from-behind 22-18 Telstra Premiership win and Mitchell was found out a couple of times by Norman grubber kicks to the Roosters in-goal.
"We talked about it during the week that they defend up," Norman told NRL.com after his match-winning turn and four try assists. "Latrell defends in the line."
With new Eels halfback Jeff Robson having to shift to hooker early on to cover the loss of Isaac De Gois (concussion) after 17 minutes, Norman found himself once again in the familiar position of being his team's only playmaker.
He responded beautifully, racking up a stunning 557 kick metres as he regularly turned the Roosters backs around with his long kicks, as well as setting up three tries directly through grubber kicks to the in-goal.
"It's hard with only one half and you can't really get shape on so we just had to push flat. Push into holes or kick in behind them and hopefully we get tries or repeat sets. That was our game plan," Norman added.
Mitchell's game wasn't short on highlights; he stood up makeshift centre Manu Ma'u using his pace to go on a long-range run early on and he supported a wonderful Shaun Kenny-Dowall half-break and offload to open the try-scoring. He added a second later on showing wonderful hands to reel in a Dan Tupou bat-back and ran over 200 metres with a match-high seven tackle busts.
But asked to comment on his fullback's freakish attacking skills, coach Trent Robinson tempered his praise with a blunt assessment of where Mitchell is at with his development – including the admission he'd rather be using Mitchell on the wing at this stage of his career.
"He's developing well, there was a good support play try, the first try there are some areas we've been trying to work on his game so that was nice," Robinson began.
"Picking up that pass off Tupou, the bat back to pick up that one, some good skill."
That's where the praise finished and the constructive criticism began.
"But he's learning as well the defensive areas of the game that need to improve still so there's work to be done on that. There were some defensive lapses from him and some others," Robinson said.
"Huge progression, a lot of pressure on him, probably should be playing wing at this time of year but that's the choice we've made and hopefully he'll develop into the player we think he's going to develop but they're big lessons, those ones tonight.
"He's been doing the stuff that we saw and the positive things his whole footy life and it's the areas we got beaten which is the bits he needs to work on and I need to work on with him to make sure we win some games. Big learning curve from him but that's what we wanted as well."