This article was first written for and published by the Roar.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the competition.
After just six rounds, I still expect to see them in the grand final come October and I can only see the Melbourne Storm or Penrith Panthers being in a position to beat them.
One thing I have particularly enjoyed about the Bunnies this year is the form of both Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell. The combination between these two continues to go from strength to strength and Mitchell, in particular, has been outstanding.
I questioned whether the move to fullback would suit Mitchell and am happy to eat my words on that; he has made the position his own and is actively getting involved, is clearly enjoying his footy, and has been extremely effective in both attack and defence.
But while I love watching these two compete, it’s become increasingly clear that both have a slightly ugly side to their game.
On Good Friday, South Sydney beat the Canterbury Bulldogs 38-0. But a big win was marred by two incidents featuring Walker.
The first was an elbow to the head of Nick Meaney in the process of completing a tackle. For this behaviour, Walker was suspended for a week.
The second incident was a deliberate stomping on the foot of Corey Waddell for no reason. Surprisingly, Walker was only fined for this incident, when he should have spent time on the sideline. There is no place for stomping – it is ugly behaviour and an exceptionally bad look for the game.
It’s also unclear why this niggling is any part of Walker’s game. His side had a commanding lead, the Bulldogs are near rock bottom and there is no significant rivalry between the two clubs.
Despite controlling a game so beautifully, there are moments when Walker seemingly loses control. This is a shame.
Mitchell was also involved in some less-than-ideal behaviour in the win over the Wests Tigers on the weekend, with is dangerous-contact charge for an elbow to the head of David Nofoaluma seeing him miss four weeks.
In that same game, Mitchell was also fined $1600 for a wayward boot that struck Luke Garner while trying to get up from a tackle, and for sliding on top of Garner after a try early in the second half.
The wayward boot probably copped the most heat on social media but while I could see how Mitchell was trying to get out of a tackle, the other two incidents were ugly.
This is not an attack on Mitchell or Walker. Many other NRL players have aggression and niggle in their game – Jack Hetherington seems to spend as much time on the sidelines as he does on the field.
But the Rabbitohs’ duo are better than this.
I want Mitchell and Walker to be recognised and remembered for the great players they are and their supreme talent. Grubby behaviour only detracts from that and could see one or both of them sent off in or suspended from crucial matches.
It has already been costly for Mitchell, who will miss four weeks of footy and for every game he’s out, he is deducted three Dally M Points – so 12 points. Mitchell is currently first on the leader board, but this will likely see him miss out on winning the game’s most prestigious individual honour in a year where he was a serious contender.
Additionally, we are coming closer to State of Origin selection. While Mitchell is a shoo-in to play for NSW, missing up to four games will not help, particularly in a scenario where the Blues seem to be flush with backline talent.
This is a plea to both players to consider their behaviour because they are both better than these ‘brain explosion’ incidents that not only impact them and their team, but are just a really bad look for rugby league.