Roosters strike centre Latrell Mitchell says a spell in reserve grade – which came on the back of a confidence-wrecking game against Brisbane in Round 6 – has benefitted him in the long run.
And after settling the score against Brisbane in Week One of the finals, the Taree Red Rovers junior's confidence has boosted to new heights.
Speaking to media ahead of this weekend's Preliminary Final against North Queensland at Allianz Stadium, Mitchell confessed the nerves were taking hold but pointed to his get-square against Broncos centre James Roberts as crucial to building his confidence.
"Going up against 'Jimmy the Jet', he's been in the game doing what he's doing for the last five or six years," Mitchell said.
"To be able to even up on him was a confidence boost because of the sort of player he is. You always try to beat your opposition so to be able to get that was something [special]."
Mitchell had an ordinary game against the Broncos back in Round 6 and was hooked with 10 minutes to go as Roberts enjoyed a day out with six busts, two line breaks and a try. The shoe was on the other foot when the teams met a fortnight ago as Mitchell's enormous fend threw Roberts away on a rampaging run to a late match-winning try.
That one play was "a big confidence boost" according to Mitchell, who insists he has moved on from his early-season struggles.
"It's in the past, I always put everything in the past now and work on what I need to do and that was one of those things," he said.
"To be able to get one up on [Roberts], we had a yarn after the game so it was good to be able to talk about it and have a laugh about it.
"It's just my footy doing the talking [now]. I sort of had a stint where I got dropped and came back and had to work on a few things and came back and trained pretty had but a few things I like to do."
While it was tough at the time, getting dropped for three games was the best thing in the long run, according to Mitchell.
"For sure [it helped]," he said.
"To go back and get grounded again and come back and play.
"It wasn't difficult [but] it was disheartening getting dropped. At the end of the day I was there to play footy and to be able to go down and play with a few mates and just enjoy that park feeling, I really enjoyed to go back and play."
Mitchell's form drew praise from club co-captain Boyd Cordner.
"I've always known [Mitchell] was an NRL player," Cordner said.
"He has some big moments in games but just the other little moments around them, when he went down to reserve grade he worked on them, came back and he was a whole new different player.
"He's been getting better as the year's gone on and just with his X-factor. He went back and worked on his game and his maturity as a person and as a player it's been really good to see him grow.
"He's growing, as we all are all the time. It's good to see."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM