He’s been beaten from pillar to post in the past 18 months, and at times it has been warranted.
From his controversial omission from last year’s NSW Origin team to his departure from the Sydney Roosters, 2019 was a year of ups and downs for Latrell Mitchell yet he still went on to represent his country, claim a second straight NRL premiership and be crowned the league’s top point scorer once again.
And then in 2020 he would join the Roosters’ arch rivals the Rabbitohs, all to be criticised before a ball was kicked after he appeared in the NRL’s advertisement draped proudly and boldly in the Indigenous flag.
It enraged the minority as they sank back into their ignorant minds to complain once again.
Yet Mitchell kept smiling, as he always does.
He would then breach COVID-19 protocols as the season was suspended. It was an irresponsible and stupid decision he made and he rightfully copped his punishment.
Yet with everything Mitchell has received he still steps up to deliver. On the eve of the NRL’s annual Indigenous round, Mitchell is now the new and fresh face for Aboriginal athletes gracing rugby league fields across the country.
From his cheeky smile to his now routine Kangaroo celebration after another try, Mitchell is exactly what we need in today’s game. He attracts so much criticism yet continues to perform.
Many pundits argued against his move to fullback before the season started. Even I had my own doubts if Mitchell could manage the transition. His early rounds left a lot to be desired but since the resumption of the season, Mitchell has stood up once again.
And that is one thing you can never doubt from Mitchell. He always stands up for what he believes in, from shutting down racist trolls online to defending his mates on the field. You only have to look back in Round 9 when he ran to the defence of his teammate Campbell Graham after he was struck by Josh Reynolds’ wayward boots.
Did Mitchell maybe go too far? Sure. But ask his teammates. Ask his fans. They will all say they love him. Not only for his freakish athletic ability but for his passion, epitomised by the love he has for his Indigenous culture and through rugby league.
In the promotion advertisements shown on Fox Sports leading up this year’s Indigenous round, Mitchell was proudly shown once again.
“Sport is a massive thing in our culture, it connects us as people,” Mitchell said.
Always attracting that spotlight, Mitchell now stands as that connection too. His deadly palm is eerily similar to that of the great Greg Inglis.
Mitchell possess the unique combination of brute strength and ball-playing ability that makes him unlike many others in the league.
As Mitchell returns for this year’s Indigenous round for a club with a proud Aboriginal history, you can no doubt imagine he will garner plenty of attention. But as we come to expect from Mitchell, he will be the star once again.