Friend backs Mitchell over Coote

Sydney Roosters captain Jake Friend would be surprised if Latrell Mitchell is not the club’s long-term No.1 amid reports the club is chasing North Queensland premiership-winner Lachlan Coote.

Coote will be forced to take a pay cut if he is to remain in Townsville beyond this season, and has already attracted interest from several Sydney clubs including the Roosters and St George Illawarra.

Blooded by coach Trent Robinson in this year’s season-opener, Mitchell is slowly warming to first grade and Friend says he’s shaping as the club’s custodian for years to come.

“I’m not sure (about the Coote rumours) but I think Latrell’s doing everything right to be here long-term,” Friend said.

Cowboys coach Paul Green has expressed his desire to hold onto Coote, but it’s a tough ask with many of his grand final side off contract at the end of 2016.

Amongst those who could be free agents at the end of the year are James Tamou, Ethan Lowe, Ben Hannant, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein and Justin O’Neill.

Robinson originally planned to blood Mitchell on the wing this year but shifted him to fullback after just one game.

And while the Roosters have struggled this season, Mitchell has started to blossom in the top grade, making five tackle busts in each of his last five outings, according to Fox Sports Stats.

In last week’s first win of the season over the Rabbitohs, Mitchell ran for 149 metres – Friend predicting the best was yet to come.

“As a team we’ve been building and those young boys like Latrell are starting to get to know the game better,” Friend said.

“He’s only going to get better in the weeks to come.

“They were all pumped to feel what it’s like to win, they hadn’t done that and they’ve been buzzing around training.”

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