Matt Shirvington has compared Latrell Mitchell to Mal Meninga.
Matt Shirvington has compared Latrell Mitchell to Mal Meninga.

Forget GI, speed demon Latrell is a clone of Big Mal

ROOSTERS megastar Latrell Mitchell has long been compared to Greg Inglis when he runs.

Which makes sense. But as for what Olympian Matt Shirvington sees?

"I think it's Mal Meninga," the Australian sprint favourite and Fox League analyst said. "Because Latrell in a word: momentum.

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"It's his combination of physical size, body weight and the speed with which he runs.

"It all makes him such a valuable weapon.

"When Latrell hits top speeds, no one can really stop him.

Latrell Mitchell is the fastest player in the grand final. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Latrell Mitchell is the fastest player in the grand final. Picture. Phil Hillyard

"He has weight but can really move it, too.

"So while I know the comparison has always been with GI, I think the better one is big Mal."

Which is more than a touch ironic because exactly 30 years after Meninga led Canberra to victory in the 1989 grand final, his modern-day counterparts must now try to overcome the imposing 102kg Rooster who, Shirvo insists, is moulded in his image.

Indeed, of the 34 players who will take to ANZ Stadium for Sunday's grand final, none have moved faster this year than 22-year-old Mitchell.

According to official Telstra Tracker data, the Roosters centre has a top speed of 36.6km/h, which puts him ahead of even Dally M Medal winner James Tedesco (35.7km/h). Canberra flyer Bailey Simonsson is third (35.5km/h).

Matt Shirvington has compared Mitchell to Mal Meninga. Picture: Getty Images
Matt Shirvington has compared Mitchell to Mal Meninga. Picture: Getty Images

Quizzed on Mitchell's running style, Shirvington said: "I see a footballer first, track sprinter second. Although it's a very close second.

"Latrell has a really long stride length which gives him the ability to cover ground and therefore generate speed.

"It's the Usain Bolt factor. Usain was never faster than anyone else, but he covered more ground per step than anybody."

Yet Mitchell, too, is about that momentum.

"It's funny actually because when most footballers run into a defensive line, they slow down,'' Shirvington said. "But Latrell, he seems to bounce off and gain speed.

"He's just got this balance and leg strength that allows him to somehow bounce off and keep going. Or fend off and keep going.

"It's almost like he has an afterburner because he just gets faster and faster."

LISTEN! In the season finale, Matty Johns is joined by James Hooper and Paul Kent to go over this Sunday's grand final, plus how the build-up to the NRL's biggest weekend can weigh on the favoured team (and how the Roosters are counteracting it!).

Shirvington said Mitchell was also able to move quicker than other players thanks to the confidence he and Roosters No.6 Luke Keary have in one another.

"Latrell knows if he can find space, Keary gets him the ball," he said. "So he just goes.

"And the opposite is also true. Keary knows when he kicks or passes, Latrell is going to be there."

While Mitchell may remind him of a Raiders legend, Shirvington also sees a blueprint for rugby league's future in the Bondi Junction star.

"Being over 100kg, it doesn't mean you can't run fast," he said.

"And I think the way the game is going, we're only going to see more guys like Latrell who can carry weight and really move it.

"Take Blake Ferguson, he's another one. Same with Maika Sivo and Josh Addo-Carr. The Fox is bigger and stronger than he's ever been but still tops that Telstra Tracker list (38.5km/h).

"Even to a lesser extent, some of the key forwards this year have shown that leg speed is one of their most valuable assets.

"Guys like Josh Papalii, Jason Taumalolo, David Fifita and, to a lesser extent, Payne Haas.

"Speed momentum is such a valuable thing and we're only seeing it more."

News Corp Australia


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