Latrell Mitchell got the last laugh when the Rabbitohs downed the Roosters — and their boisterous fans — in a thrilling elimination final on Sunday.
The superstar fullback copped repeated boos from the Roosters faithful a week earlier when the two rivals faced off in a blockbuster Round 25 clash that marked the opening of the new Allianz Stadium.
Mitchell then made headlines for saying the treatment from fans was “disappointing” and “f***ing s***,” while also drawing comparison to the treatment of AFL legend Adam Goodes.
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Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou went in to bat for his player for both the booing and the backlash over the Goodes reference, while even Roosters coach Trent Robinson called for fans to stop ahead of Sunday’s clash.
“It was obviously in context with what happened last year in our last game,” Robinson said in reference to Mitchell’s season-ending tackle on Joey Manu.
“It was our first home game (at Allianz Stadium) and that’s where it should rest. It shouldn’t happen (in the elimination final).”
All eyes were on Mitchell as he went up against his former club again and while the fans attempted to ruffle his feathers, the 25-year-old rose above it and at one stage even put his finger up to his lips in a signal to silence the crowd.
After nailing a conversion he turned to the Roosters fans and spread his arms out to rev up the crowd.
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Mitchell was instrumental in South Sydney’s 30-14 win, setting up their first try and then scoring a crucial one himself to snatch the lead while his side was down to 11 men.
Speaking to Fox League’s Matt Russell after the game, a “grateful” Mitchell opened up on his rollercoaster career.
“It’s an emotional one, it’s been a few years (since I left the Roosters) and situations went on, but I worked really hard on myself to get myself to this moment,” he said.
“I’m really grateful for what happened and what’s about to happen and I’m thankful for the crowd staying back.
“Just the hurdles I’ve had to jump, the resilience I’ve (shown).
“I’ve been bashed down 10 times and I got up 11, and it’s all worth it when you’ve got the support and I know it’s there and it outweighs the bad and I’m very grateful.”
Mitchell then joined Channel 9’s Brad Fittler for a post-game interview and as he went to answer the first question the stadium erupted with an almighty cheer from Rabbitohs fans that last 20 seconds.
Mitchell paused for the entire 20 seconds to take in the moment and then responded.
“It’s pretty emotional,” he said before turning away.
“It’s a ripper tonight,” he continued.
“I’m so glad Souths fans turned up and give it back and support us all the way.
“It’s how it’s been all year and I know it hasn’t gone the way we wanted, but we’re starting the new season.
“It’s semi-final footy now and we’re coming.
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“I spent most of my career there and I can’t thank the Roosters enough for giving me an opportunity to be Latrell Mitchell.
“Now I get to express that with the best club in the world. It’s just so good, I love the community. I’m home, I really enjoy being here and being around South Sydney.”