Latrell inspired by Koori Knockout footy

·3-min read

The lifelong influence of Koori Knockout football on South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell has been credited with igniting the spark and mental toughness he is playing with at the Rabbitohs.

Former NRL prop George Rose, who won the 2011 grand final with Manly and two Koori Knockouts (2010 and 2014) with his Walgett Aboriginal Connection (WAC) side, said Mitchell's experiences with the Taree Biripi Sharks at the knockout had shaped him.

"Knockout footy has helped Latrell realise how important it is to keep a strong connection to his community for a start," Rose said of Mitchell, who will play for the Rabbitohs against Cronulla in Saturday night's NRL knockout semi-final.

"The great thing Latrell does is he gets back home as often as he can. When the Rabbitohs have a few days off he jumps in his car and goes back to Taree and reconnects.

"When he does that you see how much more settled he is coming into a week.

"I don't think many people could deal with the flak he has to cop each week just for being a great player. One of the things that he does to keep himself balanced and focused to play well is reconnecting with country and community."

Rose said the Koori Knockout was about "reconnecting with our communities and celebrating that massive, positive relationship that Indigenous people have with rugby league".

"You've got 150-odd teams coming together and 20,000 people converging in the one spot," he said.

"The footy is a great spectacle and the feel of the whole weekend fills your cup because it is an opportunity to play with your brothers, cousins, nephews, uncles and all your close mates. I know Latrell gets a lot from it."

Mitchell told reporters on Tuesday he played the game "hard and tough" and denied he milked penalties in the 30-14 elimination final win over the Sydney Roosters after being hit high in several tackles.

Rose said there was no disputing the physicality Mitchell played with, another legacy of the knockouts which he said was "the toughest footy I have ever played".

"Latrell plays tough and he plays with passion for the Rabbitohs and that epitomises knockout footy where you are representing your community and family," Rose said.

"He has embraced South Sydney as his own family and will put every last bit of himself on the line for his team.

"Latrell has played knockouts since he was 15 and learnt from the older fellas how to play footy as a man. He was a big, lean thing back then and now he has filled out to be one of the most intimidating presences on a rugby league field."

This year's Koori Knockout is the 50th anniversary of the tournament and will be held from September 30-October 3 in Nowra on the same weekend as the NRL grand final.

"Latrell will be able to come down on the Monday and bring the NRL trophy with him if he wants," Rose grinned.

"If Latrell does get to play in this year's knockout in Nowra every man and their dog will be coming to watch what he can do."