Are opposition fans within their rights to boo Latrell Mitchell when the South Sydney star takes to the field in the NRL? The debate was once again reignited during the Rabbitohs' preliminary final defeat to Penrith at Accor Stadium on Saturday night.
Mitchell was again the target of relentless booing from sections of the crowd as the Panthers booked a spot in their third straight NRL grand final with a 32-12 win against the Bunnies.
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The Souths fullback has found himself in the crosshairs of opposition fans this season, with Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou conceding that it was all part of the "pantomime" around his star player.
The booing of the 25-year-old fullback really kicked off in the round 25 clash against fierce rivals, the Sydney Roosters, in a match that marked the opening of the new Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Mitchell was heckled whenever he brought the ball out from his own end and while attempting conversions during the game, prompting Tri Colours coach Trent Robinson to call on his own team's fans to tone it down.
Considering the fierce rivalry between the teams and the fact Mitchell wiped Joseph Manu out of the 2021 finals with a shocking hit, the reception was perhaps understandable from Roosters fans.
However, the boos have continued to ring out from opposition fans since, with Mitchell at times relishing his status as 'pantomime villain' and at other times admonishing fans for their behaviour.
His irresistible form at the back end of the season and his words and actions off the field have made the self-proclaimed 'entertainer' a polarising figure in the game.
That fact was crystal clear at Accor Stadium on Saturday night when Penrith fans continued the barrage of boos towards the Bunnies' superstar.
eWhile many league fans and experts have called for fans to stop the unsavoury treatment of the Souths superstar, Queensland and Kangaroos great Gorden Tallis insists it's part of the game.
The three-time premiership winner says he does not want to see the NRL go "woke" and argues that as long as fans aren't overstepping the mark, they should be allowed to boo or show their emotion in other such ways.
“It’s not right and are Penrith (fans) wrong, yes. But do they have a right to boo? I think they do,” Tallis told Triple M.
“I actually think when you pay the money, if they’re not overstepping the line, and I don’t think booing (is)… I don’t want the crowd to go woke in our game and you want them to go and boo.
“After the game, is it (booing) unfair? Yeah. Before the game when they run out, is it unfair? I’m not going to tell a fan that he can’t go to the game, pay his money, and boo or cheer a player.”
Earlier in the season, Mitchell likened the treatment he's received from fans to that of Sydney Swans star, Adam Goodes, which may have inadvertently only stoked the fire even further.
“It’s a bit disappointing. Once or twice or when I’m kicking goals, then definitely (it’s OK),” Mitchell said at the time.
“But every run was a bit disappointing.
“Adam Goodes gave up his career because of it.
“It’s not nice because we cop it every day as it is, and regardless of what happens on the field, it stays on the field. They have control over what they do off (the field) when they come watch a game.
“They can be passionate, but there are different ways on the spectrum of that."
Latrell Mitchell 'fitness' questioned after Penrith defeat
Mitchell had more than just the booing to contend with after having his fitness questioned by league great Corey Parker, in the wake of the Rabbitohs' bitterly disappointing exit from the finals.
“Particularly at one stage in that second half, some of their big stars were not seen with the ball,” Parker told Fox League.
“There was a period in that second half when Latrell Mitchell did not touch the ball, was not seen, did not touch the ball for three sets of six.
“You are playing in a preliminary final, you need your big stars touching the ball, there is not next week, it is a grand final if you want to go and take it.”
Parker argued that it came down to a lack of fitness for Mitchell, who missed a large chunk of the season through injury before returning with a bang to spearhead his side's finals charge.
“It was 18-12, three complete sets of six, he (Mitchell) did not touch the ball, and they bobbled away and didn’t come up with the right option.
“For mine, it is fitness, Latrell was pulled apart to the point where he couldn’t be able to put effort on effort.
“He wasn’t able to put himself, where he needed to put himself, if he was fit enough, he would be there.”
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