Australia

Tensions boil over as Souths defend Mitchell over high tackle and Roosters cop $40k fine

The NRL has come down hard on the Sydney Roosters for abusing referees over the high shot that has seen Souths fullback Latrell Mitchell banned for the finals.

Mitchell has been suspended for six weeks for the grade two hit on Joseph Manu that also ended his season. 

Manu is now in hospital with three metal plates inserted in his face.

Mitchell was sin-binned at the time, while Roosters players, officials and coach Trent Robinson abused the referees for not sending him off all together.

Roosters players and officials verbally sprayed Mitchell and the match officials when he returned to the field.

The NRL has described the Roosters’ behaviour as unprofessional, fining the club $40,000 — $10,000 for abuse during the match, $20,000 for Robinsons’ comments and a suspended $10,000 fine for the club’s public commentary after the fact.

Robinson, in his Friday night press conference, had said: “It’s shown that the NRL bunker cannot do their job this year. It’s been a farce, it’s been an absolute farce.”

Robinson said there was bias against his side and he personally called out on-field referee Ashley Klein.

“It’s like the twilight zone up there when the Roosters are playing. It was laughable, it was that bad. They don’t know what they were doing,” Robinson said at the time.

The NRL has since confirmed Mitchell should have been sent off rather than sin-binned for the tackle. The bunker referee, Henry Perenara, was stood down for the following night’s match over the bungle.

Manu is in hospital with three metal plates in his face following the high shot.(

Getty images: Chris Hyde

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To make matters worse, the NRL Integrity Unit is also investigating Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for an alleged altercation with a Channel Nine cameraman.

The NRL is warning abuse of match officials will not be tolerated.

“There was a lack of professionalism shown by the club and its officials,” NRL chief executive officer Andrew Abdo said.

“There is no place for the abuse or harassment on the sideline.

“It’s not tolerated in community sport and it’s certainly not tolerated in elite sport.”

The abuse towards one of the game’s most polarising figures is not just coming from the rival Roosters.

Teammates throw support behind Mitchell

Mitchell’s character has been brought into question by commentators and online critics, and his teammates feel it is not fair.

“We are all humans at the end of the day, players make mistakes, refs make mistakes, the bunker makes mistakes,” Rabbitohs captain Adam Reynolds said.

Last year, Reynolds warned Mitchell was on the brink of quitting the game because of the relentless criticism he faced in the media and online. Reynolds is not sure the treatment of Mitchell has improved.

“Everyone’s got strong opinions of people in the game, some more than others,” Reynolds said.

“It’s pretty easy to stand behind a microphone and bag someone or make comments about someone, but we don’t know what they are thinking or feeling, so I am not too sure [if things have improved for Latrell],” Reynolds said.

He said witnessing the weekend’s abuse was very disappointing.

“No player goes out there to deliberately hurt someone,” he said 

“That’s all I am going to say on the situation. We can’t control what’s happened. now we have to move on and worry about what’s in front of us.”

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Reynolds will not comment on whether he agrees with the six-week penalty, but he did open up about Mitchell’s mental state.

“He’s alright. We’ll look after him. He’s a valuable player to have on our team,” Reynolds said.

Souths teammate Campbell Graham was also quick to defend Mitchell.

“I don’t want to see Latrell change his game at all,” Graham said.

“I love what he brings on the field. I love his aggression and his intent on the field. 

“It’s a shame. There was no intent. He didn’t go out there to hurt anyone.

“There is a place for physicality and aggression in our game and Latrell brings that. There are plenty of other players who bring that same aggression and that’s what people love to see.”

It is the second year in a row Mitchell will miss finals. Last year he was out with a hamstring injury.

“I am sure he’s upset,” Graham said. “He’s missed the last one (finals). It’s a shame

Meanwhile, Roosters skipper James Tedesco has said Mitchell, his former teammate, must change his playing ways.

“You just can’t do that,” he said.

Souths are expected to call on rookie fullback Blake Taafe to fill in for Mitchell.


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