The Roar
The Roar


'NRL better deal with this s--t', says Latrell: Mam accuses Leniu of 'monkey' racial slur as Roosters outmuscle Broncos

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3rd March, 2024
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The NRL was able to deliver the best of both worlds in its Las Vegas double-header – a match full of thunderous hits following an end-to-end tryfest. 

Big hits dominated game two of the Allegiant Stadium carnival of league with the Roosters outmuscling the Broncos 20-10 to record the second boilover of the night after Manly outscored Souths 36-24 with 11 touchdowns in the end zones/tries in the in-goal areas.

The 40,000-plus fans at the US stadium were nearly also treated to an old-fashioned dust-up when Roosters recruit Spencer Leniu and opposing forward Jordan Riki locked horns but the players made sure they stayed on their best behaviour while representing their sport on foreign turf.

Leniu was then put on report when Ezra Mam “made a formal complaint that’s racial in nature”, according to referee Adam Gee, who told both captains that he did not hear the remark but it would be investigated by the match review committee.

Mam was heard in the match broadcast audio saying “he called me a monkey” to Gee.

Leniu claimed he was “not worried at all” and said “it’s all just fun and games on the field, that’s it” in a sideline interview with Triple M.


Mam, who is Indigenous, accused the Samoan international during a break in play with 11 minutes remaining and both teams ripped into each other with even more vigour on the next set.

But the Roosters remained focused and were rewarded for their being the better team by far when Roosters captain James Tedesco sliced past Mam to send lock Victor Radley in for the match-winning try.

Johnathan Thurston on Nine’s coverage said the young five-eighth was in tears after the game and Brisbane coach Kevin Walters said Mam was pretty upset but they would leave the incident with the NRL to investigate.

“We certainly support Ezra and our player, and everything that’s around that. He’s adamant,” he added.

“Not in this day and age would you think it’s still out there – it’s a bit of a shock.”

Broncos captain Adam Reynolds said he was well away from the incident when it happened. “We certainly don’t stand for racism – we’ll support Ezra and get around him and make sure he’s alright.”


Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell, who has been subjected to racial taunts from fans, took to social media to support Mam, posting: “I stand with you Bala. NRL better deal with this s–t.”

Roosters coach Trent Robinson said “I can’t have any opinion on it, I don’t know what happened”.

“(Mam) obviously made the complaint but that doesn’t mean that it’s right. It will go through the formal process as it should.”

Much of the pre-game talk before this match-up centred on Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh’s potential impact after his breakout season in 2023.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Joseph Manu of the Roosters runs the ballduring the round one NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Joseph Manu runs the ball at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

But he was overshadowed by Tedesco and another player who never looks out of place in a No.1 jersey in Joey Manu, who produced a day-one entry for the try assist of the season in the second half.

Manu was somehow able to unfurl an around-the-corner flick pass as he was tackled by Broncos defenders Jesse Arthars and Selwyn Cobbo to find unmarked wingman Junior Pauga just metres from the line. 


“That is a brilliant moment from one of the classiest centres of the last decade, Joey Manu,” Fox League analyst Michael Ennis gushed on commentary. “An absolute star of our game and he’s just shown what he’s capable of here in Las Vegas.”

Manu only had one training session in the States after arriving late following the birth of his daughter but was all class out wide.

“Two days later I had to leave and I really didn’t want to leave so it was really tough coming over but I’m glad I got here. What an atmosphere – it was so good to bring the game to Vegas,” he said.

When asked about the flick pass, he added: “I practise that at training but the boys just get me in good positions. I felt like we really played our power game and it started opening up a bit. That’s what I love, that open footy.”

And while Manu’s magical moment was the attacking highlight of the contest, there was plenty of defensive clout on display with Radley ironing out Martin Taupau, the Manly veteran getting one of his own in on Luke Keary, Mam flattening fellow playmaker Sam Walker and Radley also rocking Walsh and Kobe Hetherington with thunderous tackles.

The Roosters got the jump on the Broncos in the fifth minute when centre Joey Manu peeled off a pick six on NFL turf, intercepting a careless Mam pass from 30 metres out


They kept the pressure on Brisbane, maintaining their advantage in field position and on the scoreboard when Billy Walters sacrificed a ruck infringement to halt another Roosters raid, giving up two points for an easy Walker penalty. 

Brisbane looked disjointed in attack and after a couple of handling errors stymied their attempts to put on points, they opened their account in the 35th minute when a right-side shift led to Walsh standing up Joseph Suaalii and threading a kick through for Deine Mariner to set sail for the ball.

Daniel Tupou looked set to extend the 8-4 half-time lead six minutes after the restart and Tedesco effectively used a captain’s challenge to overturn Gee’s decision that the Roosters winger fumbled the ball in Walsh’s last-ditch tackle in the left corner.

The replay showed Walsh shoulder-charged the veteran Tongan and Brisbane could count them lucky that the incident happened just inside the field of play otherwise it would have been a penalty try. 

Although the Roosters coughed up possession on the next set, they kept their foot on the throttle and were rewarded in the 54th minute when Manu’s magical pass put Pauga over out wide for a 14-4 advantage.

Walsh narrowed the deficit to four midway through the second half when a slick sequence of passes down the left edge led to Arthars sending away so he could unveil some razzle-dazzle with a huge swandive to bury the ball under the posts.


But the Broncos never managed to find top gear and the flight back from Vegas will feel extra long for last year’s grand finalists.

For the Roosters, who had lost eight of their previous Round 1 outings, the win was the perfect confidence-booster heading into their Round 2 rendezvous with fellow first-up winners Manly at Brookvale in a fortnight.