Souths defend Mitchell amid Fittler, Mundine criticism

George Clarke |

Cody Walker (centre) and Latrell Mitchell (right) have been vocal in their support of Ezra Mam.
Cody Walker (centre) and Latrell Mitchell (right) have been vocal in their support of Ezra Mam.

South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has hit back at critics calling for Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker to be silenced, proudly supporting the pair’s commitment to speaking up for Indigenous people.

Before Monday’s judiciary hearing, Rabbitohs duo Mitchell and Walker were two of the strongest voices calling for Spencer Leniu to face a lengthy sanction.

The Sydney Roosters prop was handed an eight-game ban this week for racially abusing Brisbane’s Indigenous five-eighth Ezra Mam.

Anthony Mundine was scathing of Mitchell’s public comments, while former NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler said on the Nine Network that Mitchell and Walker “should be in trouble” for prejudicing the judiciary hearing

Fittler is currently employed by the NRL.

But ahead of Thursday’s trip to face the Broncos, where Souths will be desperate to avoid falling to a 0-2 start to the 2024 season, Demetriou said: “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.

“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.”

He said Mitchell and Walker had displayed an “emotional intelligence” with how they had navigated the past 10 days following the Leniu-Mam incident in Las Vegas. 

“If you stand for nothing you fall for everything,” Demetriou said.

“I want all my players to be comfortable in their skin.

“What I love about this group is they support each other.” 

Souths head to Brisbane expecting the Broncos to come out firing in what is their first game back at Suncorp Stadium since Mam was the victim of Leniu’s racial abuse.

If that wasn’t daunting enough for the Bunnies, Queensland State of Origin back-rower Jai Arrow is sidelined with a shoulder issue.

Arrow’s place has been taken by Tallis Duncan, but Demetriou expects Arrow to return later this year. 

“He (Arrow) has a rehab process over the next three or four weeks to strengthen him up,” the coach said.

“I’m more than confident he’ll be back playing later this season. 

“It’s a shoulder injury that needs surgery, and there have been plenty of players who have played in the past and had it (an operation) in two years time.”

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