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Top cop's revelation about Latrell Mitchell amid ugly dramas surrounding NRL star

The South Sydney fullback seems to cop more criticism and backlash than any other player.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Gavin Wood has lifted the lid on the side of Latrell Mitchell that NRL fans don't see, amid more ugly dramas surrounding the South Sydney fullback. Mitchell was relentlessly booed by Bulldogs fans last weekend, even before he wiped out Josh Addo-Carr in a controversial tackle.

Many in the NRL world have likened the treatment of Mitchell to that endured by Adam Goodes at the end of his AFL career, and questions have emerged about whether the booing of the Indigenous star has become racially-motivated. Mitchell seems to cop more criticism than any other player in the NRL, and the 26-year-old can often fall foul of officials.

Gavin Wood and Latrell Mitchell.
Gavin Wood has opened up about what Latrell Mitchell is like off the field. Image: Getty/AAP

But Assistant Commissioner Wood has provided an insight into the kind of person Mitchell is off the field. Souths stars Mitchell, Cody Walker and Tyrone Munro have volunteered to help the police with 'Operation Pathfinder', a new initiative designed to help youth in the northern NSW town of Moree.

The project was announced by NSW Premier Chris Minns on Wednesday in conjunction with the NRL and NSW Police. It will attempt to provide more education for young Indigenous people on how to make positive life choices and steer clear of criminal activity.

Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Tyrone Munro and Cody Walker, pictured here in the NRL.
Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Tyrone Munro and Cody Walker. (AAPIMAGE)

Top police officer opens up on Latrell Mitchell the human being

Mitchell's decision to put himself forward to help out is the latest example of the tireless work he does in the community, which saw him win the Ken Stephen Medal at the Dally M awards last season. “Those guys have come at our request, and a lot of the time at their own cost, without any fanfare and on their days off – they’ve been nothing short of phenomenal,” Wood told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We’ve visited plenty of Indigenous communities and missions. I’ve found Latrell an outstanding human being and he’s the first person to put his hand up to help us.

“He never says ‘no’, and genuinely cares. Wherever we go with him, he just oozes enthusiasm for his community and has been nothing but an excellent role model when we’ve been with him. Latrell and Cody are like rock stars when we go to the regional communities.”

Mitchell is considering becoming an Aboriginal education officer like his father. “My dad was an Aboriginal education officer for 20 years... having that role model in my life was a big thing,” he said. “So for kids to sort of latch onto someone that they trust or love and respect, I think that’s a big thing for kids growing up.”

Has the booing of Latrell Mitchell become racially-motivated?

Mitchell's community work and the time he gives back to fans is often overlooked when he cops criticism. While some of the backlash is justified, there is often more pile-on than other players would receive.

The situation descended even further last Friday when he was booed by Bulldogs fans for no particular reason at all. Mitchell knocked out Addo-Carr in a controversial incident in the first half, but the booing had started from kick-off.

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Leading NRL journalist Dean Ritchie wrote this week: "When the hostility towards one player – who happens to be Indigenous – becomes sustained and deep-seated, we have a problem. Why aren’t white players jeered as relentlessly as Mitchell has been? I cannot recall the last white player who was singled out for the same treatment."

South Sydney CEO Blake Solly said he hopes the booing of Mitchell isn't racially-motivated, but according to Indigenous icon Laurie Daley, that's the sad reality. “I’d like to believe there’s no racism in sport, but you know a minority of people, they carry it around with them," he said on Sky Sports radio.

"There’s a minority of people that carry that grudge and hate the fact he’s an Indigenous person that speaks his mind Latrell, given that he is outspoken, about all issues in the game and particularly racism, I think a lot of people are waiting for him to fail and fall. And will be critical of him.”