Souths fire back after Latrell Mitchell criticised by Brad Fittler and Anthony Mundine

Latrell Mitchell was particularly vocal in his criticism of Roosters prop Spencer Leniu.

Souths coach Jason Demetriou has thrown his support behind Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker after the Rabbitohs pair were criticised by Brad Fittler and Anthony Mundine for speaking out over the Spencer Leniu racism row. Leniu pleaded guilty to calling Brisbane's Indigenous playmaker Ezra Mam a "monkey" and was slapped with an eight-week ban at the NRL judiciary on Monday night.

The South Sydney stars were among those calling for Leniu to be handed a lengthy ban, with Rabbitohs fullback Mitchell suggesting that even a 12-week suspension would be too light. Mitchell also applauded Mam for standing up to racism and not backing down from his assertion that Leniu racially abused him, even if the Roosters player argued that was never his intention.

Pictured left to right are Brad Fittler, Souths star Latrell Mitchell and Anthony Mundine.
Souths star Latrell Mitchell was criticised by both Brad Fittler and Anthony Mundine over his response to the Spencer Leniu racism row. Pic: Getty

“Standing up for what you believe in is the hardest thing you could ever do, that’s why not everyone can do it," Mitchell wrote on Instagram before the judiciary hearing had taken place. "You will either be hated or loved for doing it.

"I applaud anyone (non-indigenous also) for calling racism out. This is just something now we have to stay prepared to deal with which is the saddest part. I love my culture it is something that should be shared.” Mitchell ended his heartfelt post with the hashtag #IstandwithEzra, in support of the Broncos five-eighth. He also took to social media shortly after the incident writing: "NRL better deal with this s**t".

Anthony Mundine and Brad Fittler critical of Latrell Mitchell

Mundine was scathing of Mitchell's public comments, while former NSW State of Origin coach Fittler said on the Nine Network that Mitchell and Walker "should be in trouble" for commenting about another player before his case has been heard by the judiciary. Fittler's suggestion was by calling for Leniu to cop a massive ban, it could prejudice the judiciary process.

Mundine launched an extraordinary attack on Mitchell and accused him of being "disrespectful" after the Rabbitohs fullback said the former boxer's take on the Leniu controversy was "absolute bulls**t". Mundine claimed that because Leniu was of Samoan descent, his remark did not amount to racism because both he and Mam were people of colour, with Mitchell accusing Mundine of trying to "dilute the oldest living culture in the world".

Speaking ahead of his side's trip to face the Broncos on Thursday night, Souths coach Demetriou brushed off the criticism against both Mitchell and Walker. He said he was proud of his men for speaking out about their Indigenous culture and beliefs and could not understand the calls to silence them.

Pictured here, Rabbitohs players Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell.
Rabbitohs pair Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell have been praised by their coach for speaking up about their beliefs. Pic: Getty

Souths throw support behind Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker

"I find it interesting when people are telling people to shut up, and they sit on there and have opinions every single minute of the day," Demetriou said. "The game is littered with opinions, with agenda and people's thoughts. As soon as a player comes out that's against someone that doesn't want someone suspended... then there's an issue.

"We're proud of Cody and Latrell, their stance doesn't change and it hasn't changed for years - they represent their people really well and I'm really proud of them." Demetriou says Mitchell and Walker displayed an "emotional intelligence" with how they handled the Leniu racism controversy and the club would continue to support the players and what they believe in.


"If you stand for nothing you fall for everything," Demetriou added. "I want all my players to be comfortable in their skin. What I love about this group is they support each other." The Bunnies come up against Mam's Broncos on Thursday night and both sides will be desperate to avoid starting the season 0-2 after opening round defeats in Las Vegas.

The task for Souths has been made more difficult by a shoulder injury to Jai Arrow that's set to sideline the Queensland State of Origin back-rower for a number of weeks. Exciting youngster Tallis Duncan has been named as Arrow's replacement, with Demetriou "more than confident" his injured edge forward will be "back playing later this season".

with AAP

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