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Mitchell and Chambers: From foes to All Stars teammates

In 2018, Latrell Mitchell was the kid no more.

In a breakout season for the Sydney Roosters superstar, he dethroned Will Chambers as the best centre in the game and through his performances at club and State of Origin level, ensured he would steal his Storm rival's Australian jersey in the process.

Mitchell tormented Chambers in each of their emotion-charged battles last year, which often boiled over and resulted in the pair staring each other down.

This week Mitchell will go from tormentor to teammate as the Indigenous team prepares for Friday night's Harvey Norman All Stars clash against the New Zealand Maori at AAMI Park.

Despite the pair insisting they were friends off the field, it was hard not to notice Chambers's frustration with the topic when asked about it in Melbourne on Monday.

"We came over, shook hands and had a hug and had a laugh," Chambers said of his arrival in camp on Sunday night.

"You guys are the ones – because we don't get along on the footy field everyone assumes we aren't mates.

Mitchell and Chambers to work together

"Look at Paul Gallen and John Hopoate, they punched the hell out of each other [on Friday night]. As soon as someone dropped to the ground Paul Gallen went straight over to check if he was OK. You're not going to be best mates, but when it’s all said and done, you sit down and have a beer together.

"I had a beer with him [Mitchell] in Adelaide after we played them over there and that was the middle of the Origin series. It's not a big thing.

"We don't hate each other. It's theatre for 80 minutes on the field, but you don't need to pump up that you hate each or you're not mates, but that's the way it is going."

Mitchell recalls the night in Adelaide following a Telstra Premiership match between the Roosters and Storm, doing his best to hose down any suggestion their fiery on-field rivalry continuing off the field.

"It felt a little bit awkward but we had a bit of a laugh," Mitchell said of their catch-up in Adelaide last year.

"I don't feel the need to bring what we had on the field, off it. I just had to feel my way into having a yarn, getting out of my comfort zone and say hello to him. He's been the best for a decade now, and I just want to beat them players."

Chambers, who will come off the bench in Friday’s match with James Roberts and Mitchell the starting centres, still harbours ambition to return to the top of the game.

But even he acknowledged there was a changing of the guard last year.

"He's a big kid, you know," Chambers said.

"For a long time, I battled with a lot of people, but he was a guy who made sure my hands are full. Him and Greggy [Inglis], he’s another I've had a lot of great battles with over the years.

"Latrell's going really well, he's probably the best centre in the game. He's been the most dominant. The back end of last year he was really good. He played in the Australian side.

"He's a great kid, great young footballer that’s going to be special one day. You've all seen what he can do on the footy field. Unfortunately, I'm on the other side and I have to try and stop it and get stuck into those battles. It's really good.

Smoking ceremony kicks off Indigenous preps

"I dare say we'll have another couple of battles this year and the year after that hopefully if I'm still going around."

Mitchell, who opted against travelling with his Roosters teammates to play in the World Club Challenge against Wigan to represent the Indigenous All Stars, is mindful of the ramifications of his breakout year.

He's no longer spoken about as a player with potential, rather the best player in his position.

"I want to be up there with the top-ranked players," Mitchell said.

"I just want to do what I have to do to get me to that space. I really enjoyed that hype coming through but I’m over that. It’s all expectation now. To live up to it every year, to back up what I did last year. Everyone is expecting me to do so."

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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