Sydney Roosters rookie sensation Latrell Mitchell had the rugby league world believing the hype after a breakout performance at the NRL Auckland Nines on the weekend.
But the 18-year-old has revealed his first full pre-season left him wondering if he had what it takes to be an NRL player.
Mitchell edged closer to earning an NRL debut after lighting up Eden Park on the weekend, his star showing highlighted by a blistering 90-metre solo try in his side’s 26-7 win over Melbourne on Sunday.
While he has been the talk of rugby league circles for several years and his young shoulders have been saddled with heavy expectation, Mitchell was given a rude awakening when he turned up for pre-season training late last year.
The gruelling punishment dished out by the Roosters training staff challenged him mentally and in his weaker moments he questioned whether he was up to the task.
“It was tiring at first mate, I’m stuffed,” Mitchell said.
“The biggest challenge was the long-distance running, I’m more of a short-distance runner.
“They’re getting me to practice long-distance running and to still be able to keep going.
“The running was pretty mental. It’s all in your head and I was thinking `why am I doing this? Why did I even choose to play footy?’
“But you’ve got to do the hard work.”
Mitchell is being groomed as a long-term fullback for the tri-colours, however Blake Ferguson is shaping to take over the No.1 jumper this year following Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s departure for the Warriors.
With backline spots on offer in Trent Robinson’s side, Mitchell could be blooded on the wing but said he was determined to put pressure on Ferguson and demand a starting role.
“Fergo is the man that Robbo wants to be there (at fullback) but at the end of the day there’s competition there between me and him and Omar Slaimankhel,” Mitchell said.
“That’s what keeps us all honest and at the end of the day we’ll see who’s the hardest worker.”
Mitchell is taking the buzz in his stride and says he’s being grounded by the knowledge that he hasn’t proven anything yet.
“The hype is big but at the end of the day I’ve got to play footy,” Mitchell said.