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Latrell Mitchell and Joey Manu both had breakout years in 2018 and they should continue to improve for years to come.
The most recent Test match between Australia and New Zealand was outstanding and perhaps the best aspect of the game was the battle between these young men in the centres.
Overall, Manu got the better of Mitchell, with one play to set up Jordan Rapana being an incredible piece of skill that I am not sure another centre in the game could have achieved.
So what do the stats say?
Mitchell scored 17 tries for the year, compared to Manu’s nine. However, Manu created a lot more chances for the men around him, with nine line break assists and six try assists, compared to Mitchell’s four try assists and five line break assists.
This says Manu may develop into a player such as Matt Gidley or perhaps Jamie Lyon – he may not score a ton of tries himself, but sets up his wing man.
It is also worth remembering that the Roosters were much more likely to attack down Mitchell’s side, so Manu was given fewer chances to create or score himself.
Manu averaged just over 85 metres compared to Mitchell’s 77 metres. Neither were able to crack 100 metres, which makes me wonder if you can pay a million dollars for such output?
Mitchell is one of the most physically gifted players to play NRL in the last ten years, as shown by his 18 line breaks for the year. He proved impossible to handle one on one and his mix of size, strength and footwork were a match for two or three defenders.
Manu had 11 line breaks, but if we add his line break assist numbers, we get a much closer number to Mitchell’s, which again shows their different styles.
Tackle breaks is another clear victory to Mitchell, with 118 for the year, while Manu made 80 – another sign of the former’s ability to dominate.
Now it is important to look at defence, where both often misread attacks – Mitchell can get overly aggressive, resulting in penalties.
Manu defended at a rate of 79 per cent effective tackles, missing 46 for the year, while making 19 handling errors, but giving away few penalties.
Mitchell had 82 per cent tackle efficiency, missing 30 for the year. He did give away 24 penalties to be the sixth most penalised player in the game, while making 18 handling errors. Mitchell was more likely to give away the ball or field position than Manu.
So who would you take?
This one for me is much more clear cut then the Fifita or Klemmer debate.
When you add his goal kicking, you have to pick Mitchell.
It will be interesting to see what the Roosters do in a few years when the pair come off contract: can you afford to pay Mitchell close to a million dollars or do you let him go and keep Manu, who will be slightly cheaper?
A huge choice lies in the Roosters’ future.