Cowboys legend Matty Bowen says Latrell Mitchell can become the best fullback in the game after mentoring the new Rabbitohs custodian last week.
Bowen was in camp with the Indigenous All Stars and passed on his wisdom to the 23-year-old as he prepares to make a full-time transition from centre to fullback in 2020.
Mitchell will get his second hit-out at fullback in South Sydney’s Charity Shield clash with St George Illawarra after impressing Bowen in the Indigenous All Stars' 30-16 loss to the Maori All Stars, despite limited opportunities.
The way the game unfolded didn’t give Mitchell much scope in attack and Bowen said his six runs for 67 metres and six tackle busts didn’t reflect his performance.
Mitchell made two try-saving tackles on Kalyn Ponga and Brandon Smith and played 71 minutes in a good first hit-out for the season, with 56 minutes of those at fullback before he came back for a second stint mostly in the centres.
When asked whether Mitchell could become the game's leading fullback Bowen said "he definitely can be".
"The key for Latrell is that he has all the attributes to be a good fullback," Bowen told NRL.com in the sheds after the All Stars clash.
"The thing we worked on during the week was his positional play and just being in the right spot at the right times in attack and defence because that is the key for him switching from centre to fullback.
"Greg Inglis went back to fullback and was strong with the ball, and as a result we saw how teams kicked away from him.
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"Latrell with the ball in his hands is going to be just as tough to handle and I can’t wait to see him after a few more games when he gets fitter.
"I thought he had a couple of good touches and he is only going to get better. He’s a natural ball player who can pass right to left and left to right, and he can kick and do all that stuff."
Bowen said Mitchell’s try-saver on Ponga was a good sign for the year ahead.
"He has enough speed to run anyone down and he proved that when he showed Kalyn Ponga the sideline and made a really good tackle," he said.
NRL.com analyst Steve Renouf, a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century named in 2008, watched Mitchell’s performance closely and said Souths coach Wayne Bennett would have been happy with Mitchell’s two crucial defensive efforts that saved tries.
"As a fullback I think we all know Latrell is going to be able to attack but what impressed me is that he put in with those extra efforts in defence to save a couple of tries,” Renouf told NRL.com.
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"That is what Wayne will be most pleased with because with Wayne it is all about defence.
"When it comes to attack Wayne doesn’t change players like Latrell. I bet there will be a game this year where Latrell has a blinder in attack and Wayne says 'I can’t coach that. That just happens'."
Renouf said having Bowen assist him in camp was a "huge boost" for him.
"The biggest challenge will be his positional play and making sure he is always alert to where the kicker is. Guys like Matty and Billy Slater were hardly ever caught out and once Latrell gets the hang of that it will become second nature," Renouf said.
"I thought Latrell went well for his first hit-out and with his height I can see him doing a good job defusing kicks in traffic."