“The Latrell Mitchell that played for the Roosters, that’s what you’re going to get this weekend.”
That’s the feeling of Aaron Woods after Mitchell stood up and criticised his own defensive performance against New Zealand in the video review earlier this week.
Lining up against club teammate Joseph Manu, Mitchell admitted to his Kangaroos teammates that the defensive aggression that he dominated opposing centres with all year for the Roosters wasn’t there.
A player’s most important critic is himself; the maturity shown by Mitchell to be so honest in the video session has Woods confident that it will not happen again and that he’ll bring that aggression to Tonga this weekend.
“Sometimes you show your teammates too much respect and that can bring you down a little bit; to Latrell’s credit, he spoke out,” Woods told BigSportsBreakfast.com.au.
“He probably gave Joey Manu a couple of steps that he probably wouldn’t normally do in the NRL and if you watch Latrell he’s [got] a really aggressive style when he’s defending at centre.
“When someone says that in the video you know that they’re really up for it, so it’s going to be really exciting to see Latrell play this week.”
Mitchell bringing the aggression we all know and love is a mouth-watering prospect given the extremely proud and fired up Tongan team they will be up against.
His Grand Final and three Origin crowds – particularly the Game III Suncorp Stadium match – has Mitchell battle-ready for the sea of red that will dominate Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night.
If the crowd is anything like the Rugby League World Cup Semi Final last year against England, it will be a tough 18th man to overcome given the extreme passion in the stands that flows onto the streets.
“When we go to training we drive past houses that are covered in red and they’ve got the Tongan flags all over them,” Woods says.
“You walk down the streets there’s Tongan supporters everywhere yelling out; it’s good for Rugby League especially in a city where they love Rugby Union here.
“I remember watching the Semi Final last year against England and the spectacle was unbelievable; it’s sold out so we’re actually really excited and looking forward to this game.”
It’s not just Mitchell that will need to bring the aggression for this Test match; it’s all 17 players.
Since the success of the World Cup last year, Tonga have been gunning for a match against the world’s best. This match is historic considering they’ve never gone head-to-head before.
Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo lead their pack with an entire nation behind them, and Australia needs to be ready for a battle.
“It’s up to our big boys David Klemmer and Jordan McLean to get on the front foot early,” Woods says.
“[Fifita] is an unreal player, he’s one of those players that lifts for those big games.
“If they’re got the ball [in the] first set he’ll do a couple of carries or he’ll try and stamp his authority early on.
“We need to lead from the front and let our halves play off the back of it.”