Family over fullback future keeps Latrell at Roosters
Keeping it in the family has trumped the pursuit of fullback dollars for Sydney Roosters prodigy Latrell Mitchell, who is now out to burn the family club that snubbed him as a teenager.
Mitchell's healthy upgrade and extension through to the end of 2020 announced earlier this week was deliciously timed given Friday's clash with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, the club who never called him back after he trialled with them as a 15-year-old.
The Roosters came knocking soon after and the proud Taree boy has since made the Bondi glamour outfit his second home.
Last year on Fox Sports' League Life,Trent Robinson spoke of the father figure role he sees himself playing as head coach, while his assistants act more as "big brothers" to the playing group.
For 20-year-old Mitchell that same family orientation, which he sees starting with all-powerful CEO Nick Politis, saw him sign once more on the dotted line.
And Mitchell did so despite James Tedesco's own four-year deal meaning he won't be playing his favoured fullback position anytime soon.
"Family orientated: that's how I am, that's how I was brought up," Mitchell told the press this week.
"This club is like my family. I can see the traits that my mum and dad brought me up with and the club has the same things in its systems.
"I really enjoy being around everyone. It's not even the players, it's more marketing and everyone in the office – from the CEO down to the water boys.
"It's just family orientated, no one's better than anyone and that's what I love about it."
After rebounding from an axing to reserve grade last April, Mitchell's star is rising rapidly.
He is well and truly on Brad Fittler's radar for NSW Origin contention this year, and as result, the Roosters moved fast to ensure rival clubs didn't get the jump on one of the hottest young talents in the game.
With "fullback money" the buzz words in Cronulla's own brouhaha around how to fit Valentine Holmes and Josh Dugan into both their backline and salary cap, Mitchell's manager says the youngster is happy to bide his time in the red, white and blue.
"He's happy with the place he's at and the players around him, that's what's important to him," agent Steve Deacon told NRL.com.
"At the moment they've obviously got Tedesco there and if Latrell's best position for them is centre then he's more than happy with that, he can develop as a player in that environment. Everyone forgets he's only 20, he's got plenty of time there.
"He can play fullback, he can play wing, he can play in the centres, and right now he's working on developing as a player whatever position he gets put in."
A country boy to his bones, Mitchell will still drive the three hours north to Taree every chance he gets.
"A lot of people like to jet set off wherever they can when holidays come," Robinson smiles.
"His holiday is home."
That pleases the coach to no end. There's only so much trouble you can find in a sleepy coastal town, and it's nothing compared to the temptations of Sin City.
But just as significantly, Mitchell is currently house hunting in Sydney, ready to put down roots in the big smoke he once struggled to see himself surviving in.
Residency in the Roosters-run share house at South Coogee helped in those early days. But homesickness still hit hard.
"When I came down as a 16-year-old, playing SG Ball and moving into a different environment in a house with a few of the boys, I was going through a hard stage there going to school and being able to balance that with footy", he says.
"But I took an opportunity to move out by myself and rely on myself, take that accountability and rely on myself, it really made me grow as a person.
"To be able to live by myself and just have my own space helps me a bit more as well."
Now living in Maroubra with his partner and new bub Inala, Mitchell still has eyes for the simpler life.
"I can still picture myself up there now," he grins at the mention of Taree.
But for now, the second family has him feeling at home once more. And for the next three years, home is at the Roosters.