After nearly having his season ended early by the judiciary, Latrell Mitchell never wants to go back there again.
Mitchell has vowed to avoid any further brushes with the judiciary after he and Dylan Napa were forced to rely on teammates to earn them a place in Sunday’s grand final against Melbourne at ANZ Stadium while serving suspensions.
He was described as the happiest person in the Roosters dressing room following last Saturday night’s 12-4 defeat of South Sydney, while Napa was relieved to finally get his chance in a grand final after making way for Boyd Cordner in 2013.
The State of Origin duo had been nervous onlookers after Napa received a three match ban for a tackle on Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough in round 24 and Mitchell was suspended for one match over a crusher tackle in the qualifying final against Cronulla.
Napa’s return is expected to cost Lindsay Collins a place in the grand final, while Mitchell will take the place of rookie Paul Momirovski, who scored a try after receiving a surprise call-up for only his second NRL appearance against the Rabbitohs.
"I had full faith in the guys who were going to step up and deliver, and now I get my chance to represent the Roosters in a grand final," Napa said.
"It has been a rollercoaster of emotion, it’s been up and down, but I had a picture in my head that we were going to get through it and I was going to be playing in a grand final. I am really glad that has come true."
After a breakout season in which he gained selection for NSW and starred in the Blues Origin series win, Mitchell conceded he had been overwhelmed by a feeling of relief after the Roosters qualified for the grand final against Melbourne at ANZ Stadium.
"I couldn’t get the smile off my face but I had to get out of there because my nerves were just getting the better of me,” he said. “I just took off home and relaxed to get myself ready for this week."
While Napa insists he won’t be changing his tackling style, Mitchell said he would do his best to avoid having to appear before another judiciary hearing.
"I never want to go back there again," he said. "I will just keep all of that stuff out of my game and keep playing footy. It is not just for myself but also my team-mates. I don’t want to let them down by having to go through all that stuff."
For Napa, the opportunity to play in a grand final comes five years after he and Isaac Liu were forced to give up their positions to accommodate the return of Cordner and Luke O’Donnell for the premiership win over Manly.
The Queensland prop has been since part of Roosters teams which have fallen one game short of the Telstra Premiership decider after losing the preliminary final in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
"Lindsay Collins has been playing some awesome football the past month and he is a player who might not play this week," Napa said. "As tough as it is I have seen it happen before in front of my own eyes but it is just the way football goes.
"I played five or six games leading up to the  grand final and a couple of guys came back from injury so myself and Isaac Liu missed out. It was such an awesome experience and made me want to strive to play in one myself.
"It was really tough to cop losing three of the last four preliminary finals since then and it wasn’t until the last couple of years I realised how hard it was to get to a grand final.
"To the Storm’s credit it is impressive how many grand finals they have appeared in. As much as I respect them as a team I definitely want to go out there and take one off them."
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