Anthony Mundine has made the extraordinary claim that Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker deserve special treatment at South Sydney. Reports have emerged in recent days that Mitchell and Walker haven't been held to the same standards as their South Sydney teammates at training, with Sam Burgess said to have raised concerns about the 'soft' treatment of the fullback and five-eighth.
The situation came to a head this week when assistant coach Burgess departed the club with immediate effect, despite their being just two rounds remaining until the NRL finals. The official line from Souths was that Burgess wanted to focus on the impending birth of his child and his move to Warrington as head coach next year.
But Burgess had reportedly expressed concerns about how coach Jason Demetriou was treating Mitchell and Walker, with a board meeting hastily called and Burgess leaving the club. Rabbitohs teammates have also been rubbed the wrong way by the treatment, but according to former Dragons and Broncos player Mundine, Walker and Mitchell have earned the right to be treated differently.
“The system can’t handle two black fellas being the best at what they do, as far as footy, and having the influence they do at the club,” Mundine told the Sydney Morning Herald. “That’s all it is. When you have ‘sweat equity’ that Latrell has got, and what Cody has got, and we’re not talking over one or two years, we’re talking over a few years, you deserve that respect and you deserve to have that certain degree of influence over a club.
“I know ‘JD’ (Demetriou), I played with him in the juniors at Hurstville, his father used to train my team, he is a solid man, a good coach. But he’s also a people’s person and knows how to judge and take care of people. Obviously he sees the benefit of how he is playing it with Trell and Cody. He’s the best man there because Latrell and Cody have the utmost respect for him. If JD says to Latrell, ‘I need you to do this’, Latrell will do it.”
Jason Demetriou rejects claims about Latrell Mitchell
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday after Burgess' departure, Demetriou denied the suggestion Mitchell and Walker are effectively running the club. "Latrell is a big presence, as Sam was when he was playing, but to say that he (Mitchell) is dominating the club ... he's a part of the leadership team," Demetriou said.
"Cameron Murray is our captain and does a fantastic job as a leader in this club. Is (Mitchell) dominating the club? No, it's a comment that's ridiculous. He was out for three months, who was dominating the club then? One minute, (everyone) was saying we're too soft on him and they're running the club. And the next minute, it's I'm falling out with everyone. So which one is it?"
Mitchell also moved to silence the ugly claims on Thursday, posting a photo of himself and Souths teammates on social media. “Sometimes we fight, sometimes we argue but there ain’t no negotiation on how much I love this club and my teammates," he wrote.
Mitchell won't play again until the first week of the finals (if the Rabbitohs make it) after he was hit with a suspension for elbowing Tyson Frizell. He will miss the final-round blockbuster with the Roosters that could decide who makes the finals and who misses out.
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