NRL legend’s sad call over ‘sinister’ Latrell Mitchell retirement issue

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Laurie Daley fears there are “sinister” tones being used by a minority of NRL fans as a booing storm continues to surround Latrell Mitchell.

The Rabbitohs star was inexplicably booed by spectators during South Sydney’s win over the Bulldogs — and the verbal barrage intensified again after his tackling reaction knocked Josh Addo-Carr unconscious on the sidelines.

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The ugly scenes of Latrell being booed every time he touched the ball in the second half have again raised questions about racism in the sport — and fears Mitchell could soon be lost to the game.

Mitchell has emerged as one of the biggest stars and most polarising figures in the NRL. He has in recent years been one of the loudest voices in the game while challenging racial inequality and advocating for First Nations people.

It’s why the issue of Mitchell being habitually booed by fans this season doesn’t add up — according to some.

Leading rugby league journalist Dean Ritchie on Wednesday morning told Sky Sports Radio he believes there is a “sinister and ominous” factor in the booing Mitchell now receives.

Daley responded on the their Big Sports Breakfast show by admitting there appears to be a small section of fans that boo Mitchell because he is a proud, outspoken Indigenous Australian.

“I understand he polarises people and not everyone is always happy with what Latrell has to say,” the Canberra Raiders legend said.

“But I would think there could be a minority of people who would be (booing) because they don’t like him. They just don’t like him and every time he gets the ball they want to (boo).

“I’d like to believe there’s no racism in sport, but you know a minority of people, they carry it around with them.

“There’s a minority of people that carry that grudge and hate the fact he’s an Indigenous person that speaks his mind

“Latrell, given that he is outspoken, about all issues in the game and particularly racism, I think a lot of people are waiting for him to fail and fall. And will be critical of him.”

Ritchie said during the radio segment: “I’m just finding more and more it’s a bit sinister this continual booing”.

Mitchell recently escaped a suspension for an expletive-laden post-match radio interview which saw him repeatedly swear without any sign of apology.

He was also told be “needs to show respect” when rugby league icon Phil Gould dropped a truth bomb on him recently.

He was also embroiled in a war of words with former boxing world champion Anthony Mundine after he went public in his support of Ezra Mam after the Broncos playmaker was racially abused against the Roosters in Round 1 in Las Vegas.

The constant public criticism of his behaviour comes as teammates last year voiced fears the mercurial fullback could walk away from the sport.

The 26-year-old was in August described as a “cancer” on his football club by Rod Churchill – the son of champion fullback Clive Churchill.

The Rabbitohs fullback has often been a punching bag for fans on social media, with the two-time premiership winner mentioning last year that ongoing abuse could force players away from the NRL, just like it did with Adam Goodes in the AFL.

“You don‘t want to force a player like that into early retirement because he’s just sick of it,” teammate Damien Cook said.

“You never know when enough is enough for some players.

“What comes with being in the position, it’s just not worth the enjoyment of playing this game. I’d like to hope he’s got a good support crew around him.

“We can look after him and we can make sure he never has retired from the game he loves because of the outside noise.

“He’d have to be the most talked about NRL player in the game and we’ve got to protect him. You worry when he thinks enough is enough because he’s done everything in the game.

“But the good thing is he loves this game and this club and he wants to win us a premiership.”

The 2024 season has been a nightmare for Mitchell and the Rabbitohs with the club losing its opening three matches before last weekend’s win over the struggling Bulldogs.

They face the Warriors at Accor Stadium on Saturday.

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