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Latrell’s Goodes comparison not entirely accurate but walk a mile in his shoes before rejecting complaints about booing

When a Welcome to Country talks about elders past, present and emerging, Latrell Mitchell is definitely in the third category – a leader of the future.

The proud Birrbay Wiradjuri man’s honesty about feeling hurt by the boos which rained down upon him by Roosters fans last Friday is refreshing and should be applauded, not criticised.

When asked about it, the easy option for the 25-year-old fullback would have been to say it was water off a duck’s back but he admitted it was hard to take, particularly from a fan base which had cheered him to glory in two Grand Finals just a few years ago.

In an era when many professional athletes, in fear of saying the wrong thing, steer clear of the hacks in the media unless contractually obliged to do so, Mitchell does not shy away from the spotlight.

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He often does plenty of one-on-one sit-down interviews with journos at midweek media ops while most NRL players prefer to stand in front of the sponsorship hoarding for as little time as possible in a scrum before scurrying away. 

Mitchell copped a barrage of boos whenever he touched the ball from the 41,900-strong Roosters home crowd last Friday in the Round 25 loss at Allianz Stadium and he expects more of the same this Sunday at the same venue when finals elimination is on the line for both teams.

“It was expected,” he said. “I did what I did over (at the Roosters). It’s a game of rugby league. They’re passionate and South Sydney are passionate. It’s two clubs going at it, foundation clubs. It’s very enjoyable being out there kicking goals.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs is tackled by Luke Keary of the Roosters during the round 25 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on September 02, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

But likening his abuse to the appalling treatment Goodes suffered at the hands of AFL fans in the final few years of his career was justifiable, in a sense, but not necessarily the right tactic. “Adam Goodes gave up his career because of it,” Mitchell added.

The NSW and Australian representative has copped racial abuse on social media and he’s followed the example of Indigenous icons like Goodes and Greg Inglis and called the anonymous trolls out, exposing them for the insidious cowards they are.

But there is no evidence as yet to suggest the Roosters fans booing Mitchell was anything other than targeting a player who left their club to join their bitter rivals and someone who infamously smashed their centre Joey Manu with a high shot last year which ended the season for both players – Mitchell through suspension and Manu via a fractured cheekbone.

The moment there is any suggestion a Roosters fan, or anyone for that matter, has racially vilified Mitchell or any player is when the club and the NRL should, and will, step in.

For anyone who has not watched The Final Quarter, the documentary which depicts the deplorable treatment dished out to Goodes at the end of his glittering career for the Sydney Swans, it is compelling viewing.

Latrell Mitchell

Latrell Mitchell during his time at the Roosters in 2019. (Matt King/Getty Images)

It’s incomprehensible how the AFL and Collingwood did not act with greater urgency or severity against people like Magpies club president Eddie McGuire for his shameful response to the Goodes situation, most infamously his King Kong jibe which should lead to instant dismissal for anyone in any workplace in Australia, let alone if you are the president of a supposedly professional sports club.

The documentary also highlights the right-wing commentary of several anachronistic newspaper columnists and Footy Show buffoon Sam Newman – they should look back on their behaviour with mortification, but sadly never will.

Newman even had the gall fly into a rage on television about Geelong showing their support for Goodes and the Swans with a mutual banner and St Kilda considering a gay pride game.

“I am a white, Anglo Saxon, male, Protestant, heterosexual and I am waiting for my day to come, and when it does I will be first in line to say show stupid is this?”

Pretty much every day belongs to your group, Sam. Seeing the world from other people’s viewpoints is what tolerance is all about. 

AFL fans claimed rival fans jeered Goodes for “staging” to get umpire’s calls although it’s hard to justify that excuse in its entirety considering the concerted booing of the Swans veteran only started late in his career after he had first pointed out a 13-year-old fan had racially abused him by calling him an ape.

Unsurprisingly, no player since has received such a sustained campaign of vitriol for the dreaded scourge of staging – Goodes must have been the only player to do it.

Goodes, like Mitchell, didn’t ignore the abuse, nor did he blame the person who made the initial comment but said it was due to a wider problem with Australian society and that he wanted to promote a national conversation about the issues so everybody could better understand his perspective.

But still he kept copping it.

Ted Richards, Adam Goodes and Ben McGlynn sing.

Adam Goodes. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

For Mitchell, the likely scenario is that he will be on the receiving end of more boos from Roosters fans who once cheered him when Souths tackle their fierce rivals this weekend but no other fan base will single him out. 

And if that remains the case, then all well and good, it’s not nice but a part of professional sport, especially if you change teams to link with the bitter rivals.

Mitchell also can expect no favours comparing his plight to Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who was booed by Eels fans last Thursday after escaping a ban yet again for his latest act of on-field thuggery. 

“You see with big Nelson with the Parramatta supporters, it’s f—ing sh-t, to be honest,” he said.

Asofa-Solomona is being harassed for nothing more than the fact that he’s had five charges this season and a couple of other incidents where he should have been punished, but somehow escaped with nothing but fines for a series of cheap shots and dangerous plays.

Hopefully, Mitchell can do what he does best on the field to silence the loud-mouthed spectators – Rooster revenge is a dish best served cold.

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