Latrell Mitchell at centre of fierce debate amid referee 'leniency' claim

The Rabbitohs' fullback caused controversy on the weekend after a fiery reaction.

Latrell Mitchell speaks to the referee and Mitchell pushes Harry Grant.
Latrell Mitchell's (pictured) reaction to a Harry Grant tackle has sparked a debate on whether he should have been penalised. (Images: Getty Images/Channel Nine)

Latrell Mitchell's fiery reaction to Harry Grant's tackle on the weekend has sparked a debate on whether the Rabbitohs fullback should have been penalised for shoving the Storm No.9. Mitchell became furious with the Maroons hooker on the weekend during South Sydney's 28-12 NRL Magic Round win over the Storm.

Grant timed his tackle well against Mitchell who was coming down after jumping up to catch a high-ball. Mitchell landed and was hit hard by Grant who was the first chaser.

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Mitchell didn't take kindly to Grant and may have thought he was tackled in the air. The Rabbitohs fullback emerged from the tackle and shoved Grant in the head.

After a little scuffle, Mitchell again pushed the Storm No.9 in the head without Grant reacting. No penalty was given and Mitchell played the ball to continue play. "There is nothing in it, we are going to play the ball," referee Adam Gee said.

"Latrell is lucky to get away with that, starting to push people in the head," Billy Slater said on Nine commentary during the match. Paul Vaughan said the referee was right for letting it go and calming it down. The call has divided the NRL world on whether Mitchell overreacted, should have been penalised or been sent for 10 minutes on the sideline for making contact with an opponent's head.

NRL 360 reporter Paul Kent didn't think the reaction was warranted and wanted it out of the game, even if it just cost the Rabbitohs a penalty. "You can't be getting up doing that. You can't get up and resent being tackled...Harry Grant did nothing wrong," he said.

"That's not a punch...If you were giving penalties for that, you will be giving 20 penalties a game," journalist Brent Read said in response to Kent. Former Roosters player Braith Anasta didn't think that incident occurs 20 times during a game.

Latrell Mitchell smiles after kicking a conversion.
Latrell Mitchell (pictured) has been one of the form players of the NRL and showed it against the Storm during NRL Magic Round. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Cameron Spencer via Getty Images)

Does Latrell Mitchell get favouritism from referees?

While the debate continues over the incident with Grant, reporter James Hooper claimed that referees are worried over penalising Mitchell because of his stature in the game. This drew comparisons to the likes of Storm legend Cameron Smith who many claimed was a master at controlling on-field tactics.

“I think Latrell has become such a big figurehead in the game that referees are a little bit wary with him, similar to when Cameron Smith played,” Hooper said. "Cameron had that brilliant approach and demeanour where the referees, he was able to manipulate more leniency.

“I think Latrell is such a figurehead and drawcard for our game, it is like an unconscious bias.”

Regardless of the incident, Mitchell is with out a doubt on of the in-form players in the NRL at the moment. The fullback was at his devastating best against the Storm having set up two tries with his boot in the comfortable win for the Rabbitohs.

The Rabbitohs star will most likely play centre for the Blues come State of Origin time with Brad Fittler rewarding the 25-year-old for his devastating form. The debate Fittler faces is who will partner Mitchell in the centres with his teammate Campbell Graham in undeniable form and could be pushing for an Origin debut.

The Rabbitohs will next take on the Wests Tigers in round 11.

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