Indigenous skipper Cody Walker knows Latrell Mitchell has one of the strongest running games in the NRL but it’s the development of his passing game that offers the most excitement in 2021.
All eyes will be on Mitchell as he makes his comeback from the hamstring tear that prematurely ended his 2020 campaign and continues to adapt to life as a fullback.
He will again wear the No.1 jersey for the Indigenous side in Saturday’s Harvey Norman All Stars clash with the Maori at Queensland Country Bank Stadium and is ready to make a huge impact.
While South Sydney’s attack didn’t skip a beat in Mitchell’s absence late last season mainly due to the rise of Corey Allan at fullback, Walker has seen enough promising signs in the pre-season to suggest the 23-year-old former Rooster is ready to add another weapon to his repertoire.
"He has had a big pre-season and is looking fit and looking good," Walker said.
Who is your all-time All Star?
"He has a really big presence on the footy field, some of the things he does not many players can do and you do forget how big he is and what strengths he does have.
"We will be looking forward to putting him sometimes on the short side and the long side, his three-on-twos is pretty good.
"He has a good pass on him and he is a strong runner of the footy too. He is ready to go."
Players reveal their plans for post-try celebrations
While club coaches typically want their star’s game time managed closely in this annual fixture, Indigenous coach Laurie Daley said Mitchell had made it clear he wants to be in the thick of the action all night and will only be interchanged when he is "gassed".
"Latrell wants to play as long as he possibly can," Daley said.
"We all know how talented he is but it’s the first game of the year so I imagine at some stage he will be blowing and we will give him a rest.
"I don’t expect a call from [South Sydney coach] Wayne [Bennett] but I’m not silly enough to leave him out there when he is gassed either because you won’t get anything out of any player when they’re gassed.
"One thing we know about Latrell is he is such a talent that wherever you put him he will make an impact.
"He is such a big presence, he is a big man at the back of the field for a fullback. Hopefully he brings his A-game tomorrow because we need him but he is certainly a weapon."
Best feeling ever: Marshall-King on playing with brother Benji
The Maori All Stars won last year’s clash on the Gold Coast 30-16 and while it’s been a short build-up to the game Daley is confident his men have formed some strong combinations during the week to get the job done this time around.
"You can train well you can train poor but at the end of the day it just comes down to how you play on the night and how much passion you have and pride you have playing for the jersey and our people," Daley said.
"I don’t think that’s ever changed. It’s all about getting themselves right mentally. They’ve all done tough preseasons, they’ve got themselves physically right it’s just about being mentally ready to have a red-hot crack."