'People don't understand': Latrell Mitchell breakdown exposes touching truth

Latrell Mitchell appeared to be upset on the ground before he came off. Pic: Getty

If Wayne Bennett won't speak about the anguish shown by one of his players, he almost certainly has a good reason for doing so.

That's according to a former student of the master coach, whose touchy response about Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell's breakdown has been question by a number of league greats.

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Bennett refused to be drawn on why his fullback was seen choking back tears in the dressing sheds after Friday night's victory over the Warriors.

“I’m not going to tell you why," Bennett said when asked what had upset his player.

“It’s got nothing to do with you to be honest. The change room has always been a sacred place … the fans would love to know a lot of things that we won’t tell, they’ll understand our position on it.

“I’ve got no more to say about it.”

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett could be seen giving a distraught Latrell Mitchell his support after the match. Pic: Fox Sports

NRL great Corey Parker said on Fox Sports' coverage that by refusing to discuss the situation, Bennett had merely created more headlines and speculation within the media.

According to Wendell Sailor, however, the Rabbitohs coach was probably just protecting his player to the best of his abilities.

Sailor - who knows Bennett well after being coached by the master mentor during his playing days - told Triple M’s Dead Set Legends on Saturday morning that the veteran coach no doubt had a good reason for keeping Latrell's issues private.

The former representative winger said his own experience with a devastating personal tragedy showed him a side of Bennett that people rarely see.

“I’ve been in that situation ... when my dad passed away (in 2001), there was that same scene,” Sailor said.

“In the dressing sheds all the emotion just went out of me. I was trying to be strong for mum and I just started crying. Then this big long arm came over the top of me and said, ‘Mate, your dad would be very proud of who you are, and what you’ve just done.

Wayne Bennett and Wendell Sailor during their time together at the Dragons. Pic: Getty

“He (Bennett) did the same for me (as Latrell). He’s done it so many times. What people don’t understand is what he does away from the game.

“I love the bloke and sometimes I think he gets a bit of a raw deal from the media and in and around the game.”

Sailor said the pain that was so visible on Mitchell's face suggested the fullback was troubled by something deeper than footy concerns.

“When I saw that, you know it’s different than someone just being emotional about footy and know there’s something more behind it,” he said.

“Not the pressure of the last couple of months, you can see something is close to home because even last week when he got interviewed he talked about his family.

“So I’m not sure what’s happening around his life, but I agree we’re off limits to that.”

Mitchell at centre of controversial incident

The match's emotional finish followed a fiery moment in the 65th minute where replays showed Warriors hooker Wayde Egan's hands on Mitchell's face, raising concerns the Rabbitoh had been eye-gouged.

Mitchell reacted strongly and the players came together in confrontation before teammates split them apart.

Egan has since been charged with contrary conduct over the incident and faces the prospect of a two-match ban.

"I saw pushing and shoving but Wayde Egan is as good as they come. I couldn't imagine that being the case," said disappointed Warriors coach Stephen Kearney afterwards.

The flashpoint put a sour note on the night for Mitchell who has begun to find his groove in the No.1 jersey for South Sydney.

In their first back-to-back win for the season, Mitchell starred with two try-assists in a slick performance at the back.

Two bullet passes from Mitchell gifted Campbell Graham and Alex Johnston tries in the first half to set up an unassailable 22-6 lead at the break.

A week after they trounced North Queensland in Gosford, the Warriors crumbled under a poor completion rate, maintaining their own trend of inconsistency this season.

Just three weeks ago the Warriors set an NRL record for most consecutive completed sets with 44 against St George Illawarra but they looked a far cry from that high standard on Friday night.

Instead, in front of a devoted crowd of 436 fans, it was the Rabbitohs who found their groove.

Milestone man Cody Walker was sin-binned at the end of the first half but made up for his transgression by scoring through broken play on the line just minutes after he returned to cap off a memorable 100th NRL game.

with AAP