'Pressure from the top': Origin stars 'axed over anthem protest'

Former NSW Origin star Timana Tahu has declared Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were dropped by the Blues in part because of their anthem protest.

Mitchell was a shock omission from the team for State of Origin II, while Walker was dropped for veteran halfback James Maloney.

Mitchell's mother revealed on Monday night that her 22-year-old son is battling after four family tragedies over the past two months.

Tahu, however, questioned whether Mitchell was actually struggling or if he was dropped for other reasons.

"I don’t know why there’s all this talk of Latrell and off-field issues," he wrote on the SBS website.

"Last week on NITV's 'Over the Black Dot' he told the panel that personally, he's had no off-field issues.

"To be dropped, Latrell Mitchell has been hard done by."

Tahu believes NSW coach Brad Fittler has "had pressure on him from the top", with Blues old boys having an influence.

The former Kangaroos and Wallabies player did not hesitate to say Mitchell and Walker were axed in part because they chose not to sing the national anthem.

Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Cody Walker stood arm in arm for the national anthem. Pic: Getty

The two Indigenous stars were joined by Josh Addo-Carr and a number of other players who stayed silent when Advance Australia Fair was sung in Brisbane two weeks ago.

"I know that a lot of people from different and multicultural backgrounds supported the silent protest, not just Indigenous people," Tahu wrote.

"We are a country where a lot of people have come from overseas and made this place home. It’s something that the boys involved had a strong feeling about it.

"Did it cost some of them their positions in the team? I think yes and no.

"It’s hard for an Indigenous person to stand up for their rights and when you’re at a sporting level, when you come out and are strong in your opinion and voice, certain people don’t like it and a lot of the mainstream media captures those responses.

"But many people in everyday life would agree that there was nothing wrong in not singing the anthem.

"For Latrell and Cody Walker, part of the reason why they got the chop was that they did that."

Timana Tahu playing for NSW in the 2003 State of Origin series. Pic: Getty

Tahu said he understood where these players were coming from because he felt 'blacklisted' by NSW after walking out on the side in 2010.

"That was a traumatic moment for me and my family because it was hard to even get a club at the time," he said.

"My family received death threats and people said that I brought too much baggage to a club, so I struggled to find one after 2010.