Indigenous rugby league legends believe Latrell Mitchell’s first game in his new fullback position has the potential to set him up for a stellar season for South Sydney.
Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley has tipped flashes of brilliance on Saturday night from Mitchell in the clash with the Maori All Stars, with the best yet to come.
"He will not be Billy Slater-like in his first game there but he will bring other things that we will all sit back and be very proud of, and no doubt he will have a couple of moments in the game that will be absolutely brilliant," Daley said.
"He is not going to be the finished product … but I am excited to see his first game at fullback and I am excited to see his last game at fullback this year because I reckon his growth and development will be massive.
"I said on radio this week that if everyone is expecting Latrell Mitchell to play like Billy Slater they are going to be disappointed, but if you want him to be in a Jarryd Hayne or Greg Inglis mould, that is what you will get.
"If he turns out anything like those two then South Sydney, Australia, NSW and the Indigenous All Stars will have a really good player on their hands."
Daley: Latrell won't be Billy Slater like
NRL.com analyst Steve Renouf described Mitchell’s first outing as “a springboard”.
"I go back to last year when David Fifita came into the Indigenous All Stars team and absolutely killed it," Renouf told NRL.com
"I reckon it set his season up really well because he realised that as a young fella that he could mix it with the big boys, and he did it so easily.
"This is a massive game for Latrell. Obviously he is more experienced and has won two comps but he is in a new position at fullback this year and if he goes out there and has a blinder he can use this as a springboard into a big season at Souths. It is like a trial for him for the rest of the year.
"I like Latrell as a fullback. I loved him as a centre, but he wants to play at the back and it gives him a bit more scope in attack."
Mitchell's Indigenous All Stars teammate Connor Watson knows only too well how damaging the new Rabbitoh can be at fullback from personal experience. He said Mitchell's battle with Maori All Stars fullback Kalyn Ponga would be one to savour while highlighting the similarities and differences between the pair.
"I have been playing with Latrell since I was 17. Back then Latrell was a fullback," Watson said.
"There is a difference in size between those two. Latrell is massive and you don’t realise how big he is until you see him in person. I feel like he’s grown since I saw him last time.
Indigenous All Stars v Maori
"Latrell is amazingly talented with the ball and so is Kalyn. Latrell is more of a power style player with the palm and Kalyn has the footwork. As in how they ball play, there are definitely similarities."
Injured Titans and Indigenous All Stars prop Ryan James has no doubt Mitchell has the capacity to unseat James Tedesco as the game's best fullback.
"I don’t know whether he will be the best fullback in the game straight away but he has definitely got the potential to be as he progresses during the season," James told NRL.com.
“James Tedesco has just got the Golden Boot and is coming off a season where he was the best player in the world but Latrell is a completely different player to Tedecso. He has just got that raw power and that football intuition where he pops up around the ball where he has to."
Get your tickets to see the best of the NRL’s Indigenous and Mãori players going head to head at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22