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Melbourne Storm’s Christian Welch admits he ‘FEELS SORRY’ for Rabbitohs NRL star Latrell Mitchell

Injured Melbourne Storm skipper Christian Welch has defended controversial Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell, hailing him as a “great role model” and criticizing the media for always “finding a problem with him”.

Welch, who is also the director of the Players Association, appeared on ABC’s wingers program on Sunday morning; and praised the fullback for leading his side to a stunning victory over the Storm on Saturday night.

Mitchell is often in the headlines, both for his playing on the pitch, whether sparkly or controversial, and what he does off it.

The extremely talented Rabbitoh is very outspoken and often criticized for his take on Indigenous issues and his ultra-physical style on the pitch that often pushes boundaries.

Latrell Mitchell celebrates after Rabbitohs 12-point win over Melbourne Storm on Saturday night in Sydney

Latrell Mitchell celebrates after Rabbitohs 12-point win over Melbourne Storm on Saturday night in Sydney

Melbourne Storm skipper and Rugby League Players Association director Christian Welch has taken the defense from Mitchell

Melbourne Storm skipper and Rugby League Players Association director Christian Welch has taken the defense from Mitchell

But Welch wasn’t in the mood for it.

“I sometimes feel sorry for him (Mitchell). What a great role model, a proud native man, how outspoken and proud he is for his people,” he said.

“I think young Indigenous kids all over Australia, seeing him on television and seeing the character he is is amazing.

“He could help an elderly citizen cross the road and someone in the media would find a problem with him. I think he’s enduring a bit of grief,” Welch said.

Mitchell often calls out racist trolls on social media, and isn’t afraid to call the government either.

Latrell Mitchell (standing), pictured leading a rallying cry during the 2021 Indigenous v Maori All Stars match, often makes headlines both on and off the field

Latrell Mitchell (standing), pictured leading a rallying cry during the 2021 Indigenous v Maori All Stars match, often makes headlines both on and off the field

In April, ahead of the federal election, he called for then Prime Minister Scott Morrison and suggested that Australia have an Indigenous leader.

“He has to go. Bring in a blak (sic) prime minister, (he would) do a better job running a country than unk (Morrison) here,” he wrote on Instagram.

He recently told media critics of teammate Cody Walker to “keep quiet”, causing a stir when he ruled himself out as a state of origin decision-maker – a decision that raised some eyebrows.

Being injured for much of the start of the NRL season made him easy fodder, but critics had to swallow their words after his strong return from his hamstring injury.

Latrell Mitchell (with ball) breaks tackle in Rabbitohs win over Melbourne on Saturday night

Latrell Mitchell (with ball) breaks tackle in Rabbitohs win over Melbourne on Saturday night

The fullback turned out to be more ball player than meter eater in Saturday night’s win; setting up two tries, giving two linebreak assistants and breaking six tackles in an almost flawless display.

Australian netball great Shani Norder appeared alongside Welch and she praised players like Mitchell for being on the pitch.

The former Diamonds skipper and Collingwood AFLW star said that nowadays many players ‘lower their heads instead of fighting’ during matches and Mitchell has been such a good leader on the pitch because of the way he drags others along.

“I think everyone is so sick of words these days… you want a player who stands up,” Norder said of Mitchell.

“When someone raises their hand, like Latrell, they (teammates) say ‘I’ve got this, this is how you do it,’ and you instill faith in everyone around you.”

Former netball and AFLW star Sharni Norder praised the field impact of players like Latrell Mitchell

Former netball and AFLW star Sharni Norder praised the field impact of players like Latrell Mitchell

Norder said that even if Mitchell wasn’t the one to get the stat for a big moment during the match, he was still a big part of it.

“If you’re not the one doing it, you’re helping the person on your team who can. You can be a team sacrifice and put yourself second, to help someone come first,” she said.

‘He does that for that group. I think one player in each team, but especially in a team sport like NRL, where it’s so tough and tactical, makes a huge difference.”

Many would argue that his physical style sometimes descends to a state bordering on violence – hence the frequent criticism.

Latrell Mitchell hit Joseph Manu's jaw with his shoulder last season

Latrell Mitchell hit Joseph Manu’s jaw with his shoulder last season

He initially seemed unapologetic when he shattered former team-mate Joseph Manu’s cheekbones with a brutally high shot last season – something that led to a six-week ban.

Critics came vehemently for Mitchell after the moment, even suggesting that the Rabbitohs would have beaten Penrith in the grand final if he hadn’t committed the ugly deed.

It was just one of a series of incidents that clouded the rugby league’s lines on the pitch – but many suggest he is often given far more control on the pitch from umpires and the match rating panel than other players.

Latrell Mitchell pauses during the Rabbitoh's Round 18 match against the Bulldogs

Latrell Mitchell pauses during the Rabbitoh’s Round 18 match against the Bulldogs

What many fail to take into account, however, is the incredible amount of work he does in and for the indigenous community.

He often gives merchandise or game equipment to fans, which is something people tend to turn a blind eye to.

I bet he would also help an old lady cross the road.

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