Latrell will be an All Star mainstay: Friend
Roosters skipper Jake Friend has backed teammate Latrell Mitchell to dominate the Indigenous All Stars side for many years to come after the 19-year-old was named in Laurie Daley's 20-man squad for next year's historic game in Newcastle.
Friend – who will represent the World All Stars for the first time on February 10 – said Mitchell was on track to outdo his 2016 efforts, and predicted the teenage superstar-in-the-making will benefit from playing alongside the likes of Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston in the annual event.
"It's massive for him. I'm sure he will be in that team for a long time," Friend said.
"He's been training really well from what I've heard this pre-season and he's looking fitter and stronger. It'll be good to see what he can do with the likes of the players he's got in that team.
"I'm not only looking forward to seeing what he can do in this game, but also for the Roosters."
Mitchell and Friend were two of only three Roosters to play in all 24 matches in 2016 and while it was the sixth year in a row the skipper had played 20 or more matches, few thought it was something Mitchell would achieve in his first year in the NRL.
The 19-year-old was a revelation in what was an otherwise disappointing season for the Roosters, finishing 2016 with 14 tries, 89 tackle breaks and 2,401 running metres.
While his exploits might have caught a few pundits off guard, Mitchell's efforts last season came as no surprise to his teammates.
"We watched him work hard in the pre-season so we knew the talent that he had," Friend said.
"I think it was a big effort to play the amount of footy that he did at that age. He'll be better for that this year, and from what I've heard he's training really well and looking a lot more confident in his game than what he was last year."
Having played 16 of the first 17 matches in his preferred position at the back, Mitchell was shifted to the wing for the final seven rounds of the season in a bid to look after his body after what had been a gruelling initiation to the NRL.
His return to the No.1 jersey in 2017 might be delayed, however, after the Roosters signed veteran fullback Michael Gordon from the Parramatta Eels on a one-year deal.
Gordon's experience will be invaluable as the Roosters look to bounce back from last year's 15th-place finish, and Friend says the 33-year-old has fit right in.
"From what I've heard, he's been really good. He's a really likeable bloke and he's sort of fit right in. All the boys enjoy his company," Friend said.
"He's a sort of old head and he's been around, and I think he's a safe fullback and a safe player to have in your team. He's going to turn up and do his job so I think having that sort of bloke in and around the club will be really good for us."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM