Sydney Roosters powerhouse Latrell Mitchell is only six months out of his teens but already sizing up a NSW Origin debut as a ‘realistic goal’ in 2018.
A healthy upgrade on Mitchell’s current deal with the Tricolours, understood to be worth around $400,000 this season, continues to be negotiated with the club, and a rise into the Origin arena will only fast-track a pay rise for one of the hottest 20-year-olds in the game.
In the blockbusting centre’s corner is new Blues coach Brad Fittler, who declared that he would pick Mitchell to debut when injury struck down Manly counterpart Tom Trbojevic in the lead-up to last year’s series.
Dumped NSW mentor Laurie Daley and Kangaroos chief Mal Meninga have also heralded Mitchell as a representative bolter in the past 12 months, and coming off his best pre-season to date the boom youngster has the sky blue in his sights.
“It’s a goal, it’s realistic now,” Mitchell told NRL.com of a potential NSW debut.
“I don’t think the last two years it was realistic. I can obviously see a stepping stone to that now, but I have to perform week-in, week-out first and I’m really keen to play some footy.
“It starts with the Roosters first and I have to grow here first.”
Mitchell had been set to join Fittler’s Emerging Origin camp in January, only to withdraw at the last minute due to personal matters.
His summer has been spent slogging away on the paddock and shifting tin in the gym, prompting Trent Robinson to declare Mitchell “the fittest he’s been in his NRL career and in his lifetime” after bagging a double in his first trial game last weekend.
Having missed Fittler at the start of the year, Mitchell plans to touch base with the rookie Blues coach with one eye on a backline start, pitting himself against lead contenders Trbojevic, Jarryd Hayne, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson and Josh Mansour.
“I didn’t end up going to the Emerging Camp because I had a few personal things I had to look after, just some family things,” Mitchell said.
“I gave Freddie a call and he was sweet about it. I’ll end up catching up with him and we’ll work out what he wants from me for the year.
“I don’t have too much to do with him at the moment but he’s a great fella and we have a good yarn whenever we do get to catch up. Once I’ve got a few games under my belt hopefully we can chat again and go from there.”
With a new baby girl, Inala, born last June, Mitchell has a new lease on both life and rugby league.
That welcome addition was preceded by a high profile dumping to reserve grade by Robinson, and immediately followed by speculation Mitchell was on the way out of Bondi.
Despite there being no shortage of rival suitors both Mitchell and the Roosters dismissed any suggestion he would not see out his current contract until the end of 2019, with an upgrade eyed by both parties as the first step towards an extension.
And along with the nine-month old that “drives me whenever I’m running or struggling with the kilometres or mental side of footy”, it could well prove the making of this undoubted talent.
“There was nothing in it at all, I got dropped once, that was it,” Mitchell says of rumours around a Roosters exit.
“I took it as it came though, it was a learning curve. And I actually was able to refresh mentally, I think I grew as a player because of it. I was able to work on some things on the field that I needed to and get back to the top.
“I learned a few things about what works for me, what I need to do to be at my best on the field. I was able to kick back a bit and have a bit of fun with the boys in the NSW Cup team.
“I showed my attitude was right and I brought that back up with me, so it all worked out pretty well.”