NSW Blues high per­for­mance coach Hay­den Knowles has worked with La­trell Mitchell for more than three years. A grand fi­nal­ist he may be, but at heart he re­mains a kid kick­ing a footy

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - 2018 GRAND FINAL -

THE PAS­SION There’s noth­ing bet­ter as a coach or trainer to work with a player who loves the game in the same way he loved the game as a young child. This is La­trell Mitchell. The pure joy he has for the game is in­fec­tious. Throw him a ball and the next thing, he’s spin­ning it on his fin­ger like Michael Jor­dan would a bas­ket­ball, he’s kick­ing it around and do­ing trick-shots like Cris­tiano Ron­aldo would do with a soc­cer ball or he’ll dance around with foot­work as grace­ful and elu­sive as the great NFL run­ning back Barry San­ders.

That 12-year-old kid laugh­ing while kick­ing a footy in the park?

That’s La­trell Mitchell. THE EN­GINE An­drew Johns has de­scribed La­trell as a Fer­rari dur­ing com­men­tary, but at times he’s also shown the strength and power of a Mack truck.

The ex­cit­ing el­e­ment of his abil­ity to switch gears is that due to his re­cent sus­pen­sion, both the Fer­rari and the Mack Truck have been in the garage get­ting fine-tuned. Un­der the Roost­ers head of per­for­mance Travis Touma and weights coach Pat Lane, La­trell would’ve tar­geted per­sonal best ef­forts, which spells dan­ger for Mel­bourne. MEN­TAL EDGE The forced rest pe­riod over the past fort­night for La­trell while he’s been sus­pended has also al­lowed him to pre­pare men­tally for tonight’s de­cider.

Be­lief tonight is key for La­trell.

Know­ing that he is a weapon when he car­ries the foot­ball with a be­lief that no one can stop him, is a con­fi­dence which only the class play­ers ooze. La­trell’s de­vel­op­ment and in­creased ma­tu­rity to per­form un­der fa­tigue is a trait which the Roost­ers coach­ing staff are acutely aware of.

They know that at any one mo­ment, where out­wardly he may ap­pear to be drift­ing out of that game, he is merely pick­ing his mo­ment just as a heavy­weight cham­pion would. THE COUNT­DOWN La­trell would’ve been one of the Roost­ers most re­laxed play­ers in grand fi­nal week.

He would’ve spent spent the week smil­ing and hav­ing fun with ev­ery­thing he does while mak­ing cer­tain to spend qual­ity time with his fam­ily. Fam­ily is a ma­jor part of who La­trell is as a per­son. And keep­ing his prepa­ra­tion as nor­mal as pos­si­ble would be La­trell’s fo­cus. But when it comes to work, dur­ing yes­ter­day’s cap­tains run, Robbo will have en­cour­aged La­trell to bring out the beast. GRAND FI­NAL DAY At some point to­day, La­trell will only need to look at Boyd Cord­ner, to know it’s time to switch on.

La­trell will have his lit­tle mate Luke Keary in his ear, while never stray­ing far from ex­pe­ri­enced winger Daniel Tupou, who he plays next to.

The Roost­ers back­line bud­dies, Blake Fer­gu­son and Joey Manu will be en­cour­ag­ing each other and La­trell will as­sure his for­ward pack that he won’t let them down.

La­trell will lis­ten to Robbo give his fi­nal in­struc­tions be­fore warm-up. He’ll then be asked for quiet from Jake Friend who will de­mand what he ex­pects from the team de­fen­sively.

Full­back James Tedesco will ex­plain how he will or­gan­ise the de­fen­sive line.

The Roost­ers halves will re­cap their de­sire to go out and play footy be­fore Robbo will re­mind the dress­ing room of the team’s val­ues they live by. La­trell will breath and stay calm as he com­pletes his warm-up. He’ll be men­tally pre­par­ing him­self for his very first job.

The two minute bell will ring and the fi­nal words of in­spi­ra­tion will come from Boyd Cord­ner. La­trell will then feel the fo­cus and be­lief that the Roost­ers play­ing group has in each other.

He will know that as he runs out onto ANZ Sta­dium he’s along­side 17 mates who are ready to do any­thing for each other.

Roost­ers’ La­trell Mitchell (main) and (in­set) cel­e­brat­ing with Blake Fer­gu­son af­ter the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal. Pic­tures: Brett Costello, AAP

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