Big Mal’s promise to Latrell: ‘I can help’
The fight for Latrell Mitchell just got personal with Mal Meninga boldly declaring how he can help the out-of-favour Sydney Rooster reach his full potential as a footballer and an indigenous leader at the Gold Coast.
It follows The Daily Telegraph's revelation that the Titans had now emerged as the Wests Tigers' greatest threat to sign the two-time premiership-winning centre who wants to play fullback.
While Meninga couldn't promise Mitchell would immediately wear the No.1 jumper at Gold Coast, he was passionate about how he could influence his future development.
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"I think I can offer that guidance but Latrell needs to work out what he wants to do in life," Meninga, the Titans' head of culture and performance, said.
"I don't know about parallel lives, but I understand where he is at in life as a 22-year-old with that profile. I believe I can help him."
Australia's Test coach also conceded that he had already had a telephone conversation with Mitchell and was anticipating a face-to-face meeting this week with new coach Justin Holbrook.
Holbrook also has an established relationship with Mitchell from their days together at the Roosters when the Titans coach was working under Trent Robinson.
The Tigers were expecting that Mitchell would make a decision on his future at some stage this week but this latest development could leave them hanging.
"We are interested, absolutely," Meninga said. We want to get him up and have a chat to him. I've had a little chat with him.
"I just wanted to know if he was interested or not. He said, 'Yeah, we will come up and have a yarn'."
Meninga is a proud indigenous man who had to overcome his own adversities to excel in rugby league.
The rugby league Immortal explained: "I think I could provide him with a lot of help and guidance, just from my own experiences as a player and as a young person.
"I mean, he hasn't peaked as a young fella, he is still finding his feet. He probably doesn't quite know where he is in life at the moment.
"He has a bit of growing up to do maturity-wise and obviously with his footy that coincides with his maturity as a person. He is only 22 years of age. There is a lot in front of him.
"He would be a great acquisition for a club that was willing to put the time and effort into him.
"In the short term you are going to have your ups and downs and your bumps and bruises.
"But long term, particularly if he wants to work hard and reach his potential, there is a lot of upside."
Part of the strength of the Tigers' offer is a guarantee that Mitchell would play fullback.
Meninga stressed that decision at the Titans would be made by Holbrook but he believes Mitchell's best position was still centre.
"With Latrell growing as a man and as a footy player I think fullback will become his position but at the moment my thoughts is that he is a centre and a damn good one."
While Meninga conceded the Titans would struggle to fit Mitchell into their salary cap for the 2020 season as it stands that was not to say a deal could not be worked out.
Mitchell does have a contract with the Roosters for 2020 but Trent Robinson has already stated that the Roosters have moved on.
The Titans have a stack of players coming off contract at the end of next season but as everyone knows the NRL player transfer market is always a moving beast.
"To be honest I am not quite sure what the Roosters want to do and what Latrell wants to do," Meninga added.
"It is like anything, if there is interest we will meet with them and see what we can do."