Can Latrell become Indigenous Australian rugby league GOAT or is he just kidding himself?

There’s a couple of things we know for sure about Latrell Mitchell – firstly, he’s a very, very good footballer, and secondly, he loves putting his thought bubbles out there in the public domain for all to enjoy.

He must not only be a coach’s dream, but also a rugby league scribe’s go-to player on a slow news day.

It’s hard to say why Mitchell consistently puts his head on the media chopping block, as all the evidence would suggest he generally does himself more harm than good, often ends up with both feet in his mouth, and his media profile just makes him a more polarising player than is necessary.

While he’s come up with some good media fodder in the past, his latest offering might be hard to beat, when he told Fox Sports: “I definitely have a goal to be the best indigenous player to ever play the game”.

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Now depending upon where you sit in the Latrell Mitchell camp, and your knowledge of indigenous Australian rugby league players both past and present, this statement either reeks of arrogance, is just plain naïve, or is, at best, highly aspirational.

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Could Mitchell ever become the best indigenous player to ever play the game? To answer that, we first need to see what Latrell Mitchell has achieved in his career to date, and it’s actually pretty impressive.

Mitchell is 25 years of age, and has just completed his seventh season in the NRL, after debuting for the Roosters in round 1 of 2016 at the age of 18. He’s played 144 NRL games, scored 89 tries, kicked 282 goals and 3 field goals, and won premierships with the Roosters in both 2018 and 2019. He’s also played 7 origins for NSW, 9 games for Australia, and just scored 2 tries in Australia’s emphatic World Cup victory.

Like I said, a pretty impressive resume so far, and if he continues on this course for the next say 5 years, he could turn out to be one of the game’s best.

So who is Mitchell up against in his dream of becoming the indigenous Australian rugby league GOAT? I’ve had the pleasure to see many great Indigenous footballers over the years, and here’s my list of the top dozen, in alphabetical order, just to save any unnecessary arguments.

Arthur Beetson – Rugby League Immortal; 233 first grade games; 2 premierships; 18 games for NSW; 3 games for QLD; 28 tests for Australia; captained Australia, NSW and QLD; first Indigenous player to captain of Australia; named in the Australian, QLD and Indigenous Australian teams of the century; retrospective Clive Churchill Medal winner in 1974; a legend.

Matt Bowen – 315 first grade games; 154 tries; 10 games for QLD; 1 test for Australia; possibly the greatest broken-play runner of the NRL era.

Laurie Daley – 244 first grade games; 87 tries; 26 games for NSW; 26 tests for Australia; 3 premierships; Dally M Medal winner in 1995; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; not just a brilliant attacking player, but also a hard-hitting defender.

Justin Hodges – 254 first grade games; 99 tries; 24 games for QLD; 13 tests for Australia; won premierships with both Brisbane and the Roosters; a tough competitor, and a versatile outside back who always made life difficult for the opposition.

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys is tackled by Luke Keary and Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs during the round 17 NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the North Queensland Cowboys at Barlow Park on July 3, 2016 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Johnathan Thurston tries to evade Greg Inglis in 2016. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Greg Inglis – 263 first grade games; 149 tries; 32 games for QLD; 39 tests for Australia; 2007 Clive Churchill Medal winner; 2009 Golden Boot Award winner; won a premiership with South Sydney; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; won Dally M Fullback of the Year, Centre of the Year and 5/8 of the Year awards; arguably the best rugby league back of the NRL era.

Steve Renouf – 242 first grade games; 185 tries; 13 games for QLD; 11 tests for Australia; won 4 premierships with Brisbane; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; named in the Super League Dream Team in both 2020 and 2021; one of the best centres to ever lace on a boot.

Dale Shearer – 194 first grade games; 78 tries; 27 games for QLD; 21 tests for Australia; 1 premiership with Manly; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; played representative football in every position in the backline except halfback; a versatile player who could do almost anything on the field.

Eric Simms – 206 first grade games; scored 1,841 points; 1 game for NSW; 8 tests for Australia; 4 premierships with South Sydney; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; the competition’s top scorer four years in succession; much more than just a goal kicker, Simms was a very good attacking fullback who played with a lot of courage.

Matt Sing – 323 first grade games; 176 tries; 24 games for QLD; 13 tests for Australia; not only a prolific try scorer, but a great defender.

Gorden Tallis – 214 first grade games; 66 tries; 20 games for QLD; 16 tests for Australia; won 3 premierships with Brisbane; Clive Churchill Medal winner in 1998; named in the Indigenous Australian team of the century; a destructive forward who ruled the roost almost every time he took the field.

Sam Thaiday – 304 first grade games; 29 games for QLD; 34 tests for Australia; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; won a premiership with Brisbane; one of the most consistent forwards of the NRL era.

Johnathan Thurston – 323 first grade games; 90 tries, 923 goals and 16 field goals; 37 games for QLD; 38 tests for Australia; won a premiership with Nth QLD; 4 time Dally M Medal winner; Clive Churchill Medal winner in 2015; named in the indigenous Australian team of the century; Golden Boot winner in 2011, 2013 and 2015; one of the greatest halves of all time.

Now that’s a pretty impressive list, and there were many more quality players who also had genuine claims for inclusion, such as David Peachey, John Ferguson, Larry Corowa, Lionel Williamson, Steve Ella, Cliff Lyons, Nathan Blacklock, Sam Backo, Alex Johnston, Josh Addo-Carr, Dane Gagai, Jack Wighton, Timana Tahu, Preston Campbell, Greg Bird, Wade Graham and Andrew Fifita.

In my opinion, if Mitchell genuinely wants to be the GOAT, and it’s not just another thought bubble fit to burst, then he’s going to need to get very busy very quickly.

I for one can’t see him passing any one of the players on my top 12 list, unless he pulls both fingers out and focuses more on his on-field performances and less on his off the cuff media releases.

Latrell Mitchell to become the indigenous Australian rugby league GOAT? Surely he’s kidding.

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