Luke Keary is all too aware of the sizeable gap Latrell Mitchell leaves outside him after the Roosters centre's crusher tackle ban, describing his game-turning plays as "the kind of thing that can win you a competition".
Mitchell's bid to overturn his one-match ban for his tackle on Josh Dugan failed at the judiciary on Tuesday night, ruling him out of next week's preliminary final against the Rabbitohs or Dragons.
Veteran utility Mitch Aubusson is his most likely replacement on the left edge, and is the first to admit he is not capable of matching Mitchell's brilliance with ball in hand.
In a couple of match-winning moments against Cronulla it was Mitchell's defence that kept the Roosters ahead in a thrilling contest, never clearer than his 72nd-minute defusal of a grubber when Luke Lewis was home and hosed for a critical try.
In a year when Mitchell has risen to NSW Origin honours and will push for a Kangaroos call-up, Keary underscored exactly what the Roosters will be missing next week when the 21-year-old is watching from the stands.
"He's coming up with those big plays. People don't realise but that's the kind of thing that can win you a competition," Keary told NRL.com before Mitchell's suspension was upheld on Tuesday night.
"It could've been 18-all without Latrell there, then who knows if they go on to win or what happens. Those little plays are a big moment in a team's season.
"There was another one too that not many would've noticed but there were a couple of Val [Holmes] plays where he got through and Latrell was the one that cut him down once and then chased through when a pass to Dugan went out.
"For Latrell to get back there, he's played in some big games this year and those were big plays."
As far as his replacement goes, there has arguably been no more reliable at Bondi than Aubusson over the past decade.
A veteran of 261 games for the club, in his 2007 debut he was pitched into the Tricolours famous No.6 jersey with then-coach Chris Anderson teaching him how to grubber kick just three days earlier.
While Ryan Matterson shapes as another option to fill Mitchell's No.3 jersey, Aubusson is more than familiar with switching into the backline having played centre for seven straight matches when Mitchell was in and out of clubland on Origin duty earlier this year.
"I'm ready to go," Aubusson told NRL.com.
"The guys around that position like your Luke Kearys and Daniel Tupous will be there to help me out for sure.
"It's not my role to go out there and try to be Latrell Mitchell because I'm my own player, and I've got my own style."
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