26-year-old, Shaquai Mitchell made his long-awaited NRL debut against the Sea Eagles on Friday night, with an impressive second-half cameo.
With Cody Walker famously making his NRL debut at 26, there is still plenty of time for Shaquai to make himself a regular name on the NRL squad for years to come.
Walker and Mitchell share a lot of similarities in their journey’s to the NRL, with the pair both spending years in the lower grades perfecting their crafts, before earning their debuts at the age of 26.
Walker, who was celebrating his 150th NRL appearance against Manly, was one of the best on the park notching up two try assists, two line-break assists, three tackle-breaks, along with 86 run-metres before capping off his memorable night with an emotional four-pointer. Walker demonstrated leadership during the tough periods of the game and was monumental in leading his side around the park.
As Walker enters a late-career renaissance, Shaquai and the Rabbitohs fans have plenty of reason to be hopeful for another late-bloomer making an impact on the squad.
The brother of Latrell, forced his way into the NRL side after a dominating start to his NSW Cup campaign, where he has become one of the competition's most prominent forwards.
The imposing forward has regularly been one of the most consistent performers in NSW Cup, showing his versatility in attack whilst demonstrating an exceptional work ethic in defence.
Shaquai’s performances of recent weeks earnt him a late call up to the bench just hours before kick-off in Gosford.
After being thrown into the game in the 47th minute, Mitchell made his mark instantly with a strong first hit up.
In just 11 minutes, Mitchell ran hard for 25 metres from just three runs, creating some problems for the tiring Manly defence.
Whilst it was only a short stint, Shaquai displayed his strength and versatility in attack, dragging in several Manly players every time he had the ball, putting the Rabbitohs on the front foot and allowing Damien Cook to flourish with his quick runs from dummy-half.
Mitchell’s work with the ball in hand laid a solid platform for his backs to excel in attack, he created plenty of holes in the Sea-Eagles defence for Walker and Lachlan Ilias to control the attacking sets and find the extra numbers when close to the line.
Although it was a brief stint, Shaquai's NRL debut was an emotional one that will resonate with many. Having dealt with some well-documented mental health issues which threatened to derail his NRL aspirations, Shaquai's has worked tirelessly over the past six months to get his name back in the frame.