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 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