Anthony Minichiello on what it’ll take for Latrell Mitchell to make a successful fullback

Latrell Mitchell has got the game – but as Anthony Minichiello knows, it will take a lot more than that for South Sydney’s new recruit to become the fullback he wants to be.

Anthony Minichiello, one of the great fullbacks of the modern game, believes Latrell Mitchell must develop endurance and defensive instincts if he wants to make a successful transition into the No.1 jumper.

Minichiello, who was renowned for his meticulous approach to his physical health during his 302-game career, told The Daily Telegraph that Mitchell’s biggest challenge would be whether or not he can sufficiently increase his fitness levels before round one.

“He’s got the talent, I don’t think anyone has ever doubted how talented he is,” Minichiello said.

“The big question over the next two months will be his fitness levels. He needs to work on his fitness to play fullback.

“For any fullback of any team in this day, he has to be one of the fittest guys in the team and be able to do the most running.

“You look at the GPS scores in any team, the fullback does the most kilometres and does the most high speed running.

“That’s the bottom line, if you’re the fullback you have to do the most running in the team.”

Minichiello understands the unique demands of fullback. Photo: Gregg Porteous
Minichiello understands the unique demands of fullback.

Running and conditioning won’t be the only focal point for the new Rabbitohs recruit over the next two months.

The ability to clock the most kilometres on the football field is now almost secondary to marshalling teammates in defence for the modern-day fullback, according to Minichiello.

“Being a fullback is the most important position on the field these days, not only in attack but in defence and in organising defensive lines,” he said.

“You have to be able to think defensively under pressure while you’re tired as well so being fit isn’t only important for running.”

But reading defences is a skill that dual premiership winner Minichiello said could take a considerable amount of time to perfect, especially if a player doesn’t display a natural aptitude towards organising defensive structures.

Mitchell, who has won two premierships at centre, played 16 games at fullback during his debut season with the Roosters in 2016 and Minichiello believes it wasn’t enough time for the new Rabbitoh to develop that skill.

“He’s got great instincts, there is no doubt about it. He’s attacking instincts are better than most … but it’s hard to judge his defensive instincts just yet,” he said.

“We didn’t play him at fullback long enough for him to develop that. That’s something he will have to develop, it doesn’t just come straight away because you need to be doing game planning on other teams and the goal line stuff is all split second. It needs to be practised daily, weekly.”

Does Latrell Mitchell have what it takes to be a good No.1?

Yes, he’s got the talent and he’s the right age to learnNo, he lacks the game knowledge and discipline

Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook agrees that getting Mitchell up to speed and familiar with coach Wayne Bennett’s defensive systems will be the aspiring fullback’s greatest challenge.

“I think the idea now is to just make sure that he [gets familiar] with the different shapes and the way we defend, which is probably different to the Roosters. That’s what Trell has in front of him, eight solid weeks and if he puts in the hard work and does everything right he’ll be ready to go,” Cook said.

But Cook, who had a disrupted preseason last year, is backing his new teammate to get the job done.

“I had a funny off-season where I wasn’t back at the same time as everyone else and I was worried about not doing a full pre-season. But Wayne assured us that if you get a good six-eight weeks in that you’ll be right to go. Trell’s only young but so experienced already, he knows what he needs to do,” Cook said.

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