Where does the Manu hit leave Latrell?
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
When you follow a team, your sporting highs and lows ride on their success. But despite this, what really captivates and entertains you are the players. No matter which team they play for, the best players are the reason we watch the game.
There are not many true Rugby League fans who will turn away when Latrell Mitchell runs onto a football field. This player entertains with the skills of a halfback and the strength of a front-rower. He dominates a game like Wally Lewis. He plays at a different level to most of his opponents. And like the great stars who have come before him, we watch because he will show us things that we have never seen before. Phil Gould once said of Jaryd Hayne that he is so good that if he decides his team is going to win, they will. Latrell is that good.
His performance in Origin 1 this year was brutal. He trampled and bamboozled opponents who are at the top of the sport. He was so dominant, man-of-the-match Tom Trbojevic recognised this and spent a lot of time playing on Latrell’s side of the field. And Latrell didn’t disappoint in Origin 2. Many experts thought this was his best game of the series.
But what happened in Origin 3? His attitude and his approach were different from the kick-off. He played with a scowl rather than a smile. He niggled the opposition and made every contest personal. At one stage, as he played the ball, he pulled the leg of an opponent to put him off balance. If he was the defender, he would have been penalised. His approach was the same for the entire match, and it backfired. His game suffered, and NSW lost.
My opinion after the Origin series was that Latrell performs at his best when he plays with a smile rather than a scowl. When he doesn’t make it personal but goes out and just competes. Unfortunately, against the Roosters, this wasn’t the case. He made it personal, he looked for the niggle and pushed the boundaries. And his game was colossal. But at what cost? What cost to Joey Manu? What cost to his young fans, who see him as a true-life superhero? What cost to all fans, who love it when he just plays? What cost to his standing in the game? What long-term cost to his legacy? We won’t know till his playing days are done. But we will soon know the cost to this year’s competition. There is every chance he has played his last game of 2021. If so, he won’t be there for all those sporting fans who have stayed loyal and deserve to see the best at the best time of the year. We will soon know the cost to his team and supporters. If he isn’t there, he won’t be able to decide that his team is going to win the game, even the biggest game, and then make it happen.
This post was also published on The Roar, Sunday 19 August 2021: https://www.theroar.com.au/2021/08/29/where-does-the-manu-hit-leave-the-rest-of-latrell/