Written by Stuart McLennan
It’s 7:30 pm on a Wednesday night in West Belconnen and Raiders under 20s hooker/half Mitchel Souter is sucking in the big ones after an opposed session against the UC Stars (the Raiders 20s nominal reserve grade side for this season in the CRRL Cup).
It’s familiar surroundings for Souter, a Canberra local, who came up through the Raiders junior representative system.
The one hour session included fitness drills at the breaks to ensure the Raiders were attacking and defending under fatigue to simulate game day situations.
Souter who slotted into the halves on this occasion, spent the session barking orders, positioning supports and ensuring the right options were taken.
It is obvious the snowy haired local is thriving in his new environment after breaking into the Raiders 20s this season.
“I came up through the local junior reps, U16s and U18s, but this is my first year of U20’s and it is a massive step up,” Souter told Everything Rugby League.
“I have found it to be challenging and really rewarding due to increased accessibility to professional staff and coaches.
“I’ve found myself in the best physical form I’ve been in as well, continuing to learn new skills that I can put into practice week to week.”
While it has been disappointing for Souter and the rest of the Raiders that the 2020 Jersey Flegg competition was cancelled because of COVID-19, a next best solution was found with the Raiders 20s competing in the Canberra Region Rugby League (CRRL).
“It was very disappointing to not get to play (Jersey Flegg) this year, coming off a great preseason that was put in by everyone, through the ups and the downs that we faced.
“I’m very grateful that we get to play at all this year and have a great group of coaches around us to support us and help facilitate the competition.”
If Mitchel needs additional advice and support for his rugby league career, he has the perfect mentor in his dad Dean, who works with the Raiders as their Junior Representative High Performance Manager & Club Career Coach.
“My dad and I are constantly talking about my footy and my development. Having him in my corner, he has always given me tips and advice and is one of the main reasons I am where I am today. No doubt he will be a big part in helping me get to my end goal one way or another.”
One player that has achieved his goals this year is Souter’s former Lyneham High schoolmate Harley Smith-Shields who made his first grade debut in round 11 of the 2020 NRL season for the Raiders against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“It was awesome to see Harley debut this year. Having gone to school with him I have seen first hand how hard he worked and how professional he was growing up. It is great to watch him live his dream and motivates me in pursuing my own.”
Souter has shown his versatility this year switching seamlessly between hooker and the halves. His versatility and strong performances in both positions has him in equal third place for the Blumers Lawyers CRRL Cup First Grade Best and Fairest points.
“There has been a bit of switching up in my roles for the team this year. I believe this is mainly due to injuries in key positions however at the start of this new season the coaches really emphasised that this would be more of a development season full of opportunities for growth. I believe it is to develop me in another role so I can further enhance my playing skills and knowledge.
“Although my preferred position would have to be at number 9, I have also enjoyed the challenge of playing in a rep team at this position (6).”
When asked if he has ambitions to stay with the Raiders, Souter’s reply confirms the passion he feels for his local club.
“Absolutely, I love this club and everything it stands for. Having grown up in Canberra, I have always dreamt to one day play for the mighty Canberra Raiders.”
If commitment and determination have anything to do with it then Mitch Souter may just follow a fellow former Lyneham High student all the way to the NRL.