Matt Rose, trusted advisor of the South Sydney football star Latrell Mitchell, has taken his concerns over consistent “personal attacks” against Mitchell to the National Rugby League (NRL) boss, Andrew Abdo. This sentiment of worry extends to Mitchell’s overall wellbeing.
In light of growing turmoil within the club, focused primarily on the 26-year-old fullback, the South Sydney Rabbitohs officials granted Mitchell the weekend off. He skipped Sunday training but is due to return on Monday.
A Sunday afternoon phone call from Rose, the founder of No Limit Boxing, to Abdo highlighted a need for the NRL’s intervention after aggressive messages against Mitchell, sent by the son of South Sydney‘s legendary Clive Churchill, circulated. Mitchell was described as an “imposter” and “cancer” within the club, a language which drew an immediate response from the NRL boss, who expressed his belief such personal attacks were a “blight on our game”.
Tensions have been high in the wake of questioning over Mitchell’s commitment to the Rabbitohs. This loyalty concern, coupled with perceptions of favouritism from coach Jason Demetriou, led to assistant coach Sam Burgess‘ departure from the club last week.
A revealing report in League Initiative on Sunday, detailing a critical text message about Mitchell sent by Rod Churchill to Rabbitohs chairman Nick Pappas, was the final straw for Rose and led him to seek the help of Abdo. Rose confirmed his appeals to Abdo, adding that, “It’s fair game when someone has an opinion on people playing football, but it’s the personal attacks by certain individuals that need to be called out and removed from the game.”
Rose made further comments about the harmful nature of these attacks, “It happens too regularly. When we’re talking about the issues that people face on mental health and we advocate on how important they are, then we do these kids a disservice by throwing them under the bus if they don’t get something right or live up to someone’s standards. It’s unfair”.
Churchill’s damning text message directed to Nick Pappas described Mitchell as a “complete myth” with a primary allegiance to the aboriginal cause before South Sydney. It concluded, “this cancer that is Mitchell has ruined the club”, causing significant concern for Mitchell’s welfare.
Mitchell was absent from the club’s family day and Sunday training session, instead opting to spend his time at an indigenous cultural camp with children in rural NSW. Mitchell was granted this leave by the club as he would be suspended from the upcoming match against the Roosters and hadn’t been given time off like the rest of his teammates during the bye rounds.
Andrew Abdo defended Mitchell, celebrating his contribution to the sport and its community, “Latrell is a leader in rugby league and one of the greatest players the game has seen in the last decade. He is popular with fans young and old… He stands up for what he believes in and he makes a positive difference in many people’s lives.”
The public scrutiny and personal nature of the attacks on Mitchell were denounced by Abdo as harmful to the game, “The game is built on respect and a fair go. That’s what I expect from everyone connected with the game.” This issue led to calls for the NRL to exclude Rod Churchill from presenting the man-of-the-match award at the Grand Final day, an award named in honour of his father.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys confirmed that any concerns expressed by the South Sydney club would be considered. He backed Mitchell, calling for a retaliation against his personal attacks, “It’s time for people to back off Latrell. He’s a very good human being. He is a role model… This, however, doesn’t give people the right to attack him in such a personal and hurtful way.”