• Latrell Mitchell (pic) helped the Roosters thrash the Tigers, but Brad Fittler isn't sold on them. (AAP)
OPINION: Latrell Mitchell could help revolutionise rugby union, writes Timana Tahu.
By
Timana Tahu

9 May 2019 - 3:51 PM  UPDATED 9 May 2019 - 3:55 PM

We have some of the best guests going around on Over the Black Dot and this week it was Latrell Mitchell. That kid could be anything. 

For me, he could be another dual international like I was, like Lote Tuquiri and so on.

 

Rugby Australia should look at Latrell

For Rugby Australia, forget Israel Folau. Latrell Mitchell’s the one.

It’s not easy to make it over to rugby union when you’ve played league. There are league players who have tried before and didn't succeed, like Benji Marshall and Will Chambers — and they’re really good rugby league players.

Folau is a really great athlete, but let's face it, the comments and the stuff that he’s going through right now, I think somehow, he and the Wallabies will be separating ways.

Foalu’s gonna make some good money somewhere else, but for the next high profile player that they wanna look at, throw big money at, I’d be looking at Latrell.

It'd be a massive loss for rugby league, but for rugby union, he'd bring a new audience, new sponsorship and help change the Wallabies.

It's perfect timing because there are two or three years for him to get his game knowledge up, with the next World Cup after this year's in Japan, the next World Cup is in 2023

In terms of his union success, I just see his kicking skills, as well as his passing skills, being valuable. He's tall, he’s fast, he’s big — he’s made for rugby union.

In my opinion, if you were at Rugby Australia you should be doing everything you could to get him across.

He brings his profile now which is similar to when Folau was playing rugby league. He’s got the same attributes, but Israel Folau is more of a ball-runner, he’s got a kicking skill because he went to AFL, arguably but it’s not as good as Latrell's.

But the thing with Israel Folau was his jumping game. He dominated players in the air and the Waratahs and the Wallabies knew how to isolate players for him to get a mismatch on wingers.

Latrell Mitchell, on the other hand, can play inside centre, outside centre and he could even play wing. And with Latrell’s goalkicking and even his general kicking, he’s got a skill that I've never seen before with a tall, rangy, powerful centre.

For me, you’ve really got to look at athleticism and what attributes they can bring athletically. 

He could be a dominating centre in an Australian Super Rugby team, plus he would be an attribute for the Wallabies. 

I think his profile would bring a lot to the Wallabies too, on and off the field.

Kurtley Beale has been there for so long and he's been a really good attribute for the Wallabies and the Waratahs, but Latrell Mitchell, he would be another Israel Folau. He would bring in sponsorships, he would bring in another crowd as well to look at.

 

Latrell could show Union isn't just for private school boys

Not only from the rugby league community but from the Indigenous community as well. He could bring a lot, not only just his ability to play rugby union but his profile in itself to bring money and fans to the game.

In the past, it's been hard for a lot of young people to connect with rugby union, but Latrell could help drive a revolution for rugby and for Aboriginal athletes looking up to Latrell Mitchell on the back of Kurtley Beale

I know that a lot of the junior rugby is played in the private schools and Kurtley Beale was one of the lucky ones who came out of a private school-era and then got put into the Waratahs program. 

Outside of the private schools, if the Wallabies are and the super rugby teams are looking for more athletic ability outside of those schools, then Latrell Mitchell would be the perfect profile. Because he’s young, he does a lot of good stuff off the field as well. He’s a happy character, he's got a really good personality.

From a sponsorships situation, he’s probably one of the highest profile players in the game right now, the hottest property.

 

Who will sign Latrell next?

There're talks of South Sydney trying to snap him up now and probably just about every other NRL club would want him, and there’s going to be a lot of talk about that coming mid-year. 

But rugby union, because of Israel Folau leaving, there's no other better profile player to target than Latrell Mitchell, because there’s nothing after that.

There’s no one in rugby union who are standing out at the moment, profile wise and ability wise, so I would be gunning for Latrell and see what his thoughts would be if they chucked a million dollars at him.

 

Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot

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