Mitchell's amazing match-winning try

Mitchell's amazing match-winning try

He's been compared to Greg Inglis from the moment he made his NRL debut, but after stealing the show in his first finals match, Sydney Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell is ready to step out of his idol's shadow and be his own man. 

It's been a whirlwind couple of seasons for the 20-year-old who was thrown into the deep end in what turned out to be a horror 2016 campaign but has since enjoyed incredible success on the field, with the Roosters one game away from a spot in the NRL Telstra Grand Final after they snuck past the Broncos 24-22 at Allianz Stadium. 

Despite dominating the contest, the Tricolours found themselves trailing with five minutes to go until Mitchell stepped up with the match-winning play that secured his side's 12th win by six points or less in 2017.  

With seemingly very little on, Mitchell got the ball in traffic on the left edge, but as he's done all year, the powerhouse centre made something out of nothing as he brutally fended away from James Roberts and then sped past the fullback to score the most telling try of his young career. 

‌"I was tired. I was just like 'here we go; I've got to run now'," he said of the try. 

"I had Jimmy Roberts in front of me and he was aggressive all night and I don't know how to put it into words, but he just had that look about him. He stuffed up with one of his movements and I just went with it. A gap opened up and I just went with instinct and took the ball.

"You've sort of got to get your head around Jimmy Roberts. He's one of the fastest players in the NRL, and with speed to burn, you've got to be patient with him and let him make a decision before you make a decision."

Talent has never been an issue for Mitchell, but it was the corresponding clash at Suncorp Stadium in Round 6 that opened his eyes to the rigours of week in, week out footy after he was dropped to reserve grade for a couple of games after he was schooled by Roberts in a performance that highlighted some of his defensive deficiencies.   

His stint with the Wyong Roos in the Intrust Super Premiership was short and sweet but it did the trick with Mitchell returning a changed man in both attack and defence. 

"I don't want to go too far back – no comment about the performance – but I've worked really hard in the last couple of games so to get into the semis and where we are, it's a credit to the boys," he said. 

"I don't think I've changed too much to what I can do; I think I've matured in the defensive movements."

Roosters coach Trent Robinson has seen Mitchell dominate at all levels and was quick to praise his centre for owning the big moments on Friday night. 

"It's really different, obviously, finals footy compared to the round. The round games are hard, guys stand up, that's the difference between NRL players and reserve grade players but then in finals footy that's another level again and players find it sometimes too difficult and some guys stand up," Robinson said. 

"Latrell, I've seen him do it through the age groups at that level, in finals football - win games. That's a part of the attitude we've had this year and he's a part of that, he's brought that, to play. The strength of him, on that play and the speed and power in that five metres, that's won us the game."

 


Robinson said he'd noticed a change in the 20-year-old since that night in Brisbane but refused to label Friday night's performance as a career-defining moment. 

"No, he's been doing that his whole career," he said. 

"The making of him is all the work in between those moments, that's the making of his career. The guy was built to play those moments and he's done it but it's the other bits that he's come a long way in."

Roosters co-captain Boyd Cordner has played with some talented stars over the years and noted Mitchell's maturity on and off the field as the key to his recent surge in form. 

"He is still young but I think he got thrown into first grade because of his talent at a young age," Cordner said. 

"We all know how good he is in those big moments but what Robbo just touched on there, the stuff around that, to be the complete football player he needed to go away and work on his maturity as a footballer. 

"He went back to reserve grade and worked on a few things and got a bit of confidence back. He's been playing with that ever since, he's been awesome for us whether he's been playing at centre or on the wing for us. He's come a long way as a player and as a person as well."