• 'I support those boys’ decision on what they want to do on Sunday and if they do it, good on them, it shows their strength,' says Timana Tahu (NITV)Source: NITV
OPINION: Timana Tahu says the Origin's Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker are casualties of something much bigger than form.
By
Timana Tahu

18 Jun 2019 - 4:46 PM  UPDATED 19 Jun 2019 - 10:05 AM

The team NSW has picked for State of Origin II feels frantic. It’s like they’ve gone into shock mode.

For Freddy Fittler to go and change the side completely, with that many changes, is a risky way to avoid losing an Origin series.

But, I'm not sure it's purely Freddy's call. I feel like Freddy’s had pressure on him from the top.

Even though there are selectors, the politics come into it and I feel like some old boys might have come in and shared their two cents with the coach.

 

What's going on with Latrell?

I also don’t know why there’s all this talk of Latrell and off-field issues. Last week on NITV's Over the Black Dot he told the panel that personally, he's had no off-field issues.

To be dropped, Latrell Mitchell has been hard done by.

A lot of people have put too much pressure on this kid. He’s so young and he’s done a lot in such a short space of time.

He’s [Latrell] so young and he’s done a lot in such a short space of time.

To be 21-years-old and labelled 'the best centre in the world' and then to have certain people in the media shooting him and Cody Walker down during Origin I.

When media personalities have power and influence, people easily jump on board with their opinions.

NSW is the hardest team to play for because you’re picked on performance every week, whereas Queensland are just sitting back and laughing.

Will Chambers, especially, would be feeling pretty good.

He got one over Latrell in the first game and now he’s not coming back for game two, and that’s a big relief for him as a centre.

When you know you’ve beaten the opposing centre that you've battled with since last year, you also knew he was in for a big game to follow it up, so there’s a big sigh of relief for Will Chambers. If Tommy ‘Turbo’ Trbojevic is on that side of the field, Chambers will try and bully him out of the game.

 

The National Anthem; to sing or not to sing?

Another big topic ahead of the first State of Origin game was the number of Indigenous players choosing not to sing the national anthem. I support freedom of speech.

We’re supposed to be living in a country that’s "free", as the anthem states, you can’t contradict that with a lack of that freedom of speech.

I know that a lot of people from different and multicultural backgrounds supported the silent protest, not just Indigenous people.

We are a country where a lot of people have come from overseas and made this place home. It’s something that the boys involved had a strong feeling about it.

Did it cost some of them their positions in the team? I think yes and no. 

It’s hard for an Indigenous person to stand up for their rights and when you’re at a sporting level, when you come out and are strong in your opinion and voice, certain people don’t like it and a lot of the mainstream media captures those responses.

But many people in everyday life would agree that there was nothing wrong in not singing the anthem.

For Latrell and Cody Walker, part of the reason why they got the chop was that they did that.

 

State of Origin: My Story

When I walked out of the NSW Origin side in 2010, I felt like I got black-listed after that. That was a traumatic moment for me and my family because it was hard to even get a club at the time. My family received death threats and people said that I brought too much baggage to a club, so I struggled to find one after 2010.

I understand where the current players are coming from and I understand that they’re trying to offer an Indigenous perspective to our national identity and I think more than half of the country understand this.

To change it, would make it an anthem for everyone and players such as Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans said they supported it, but sometimes it can cost you a position and I feel like that might have been a problem as well.

We should be supporting these players and empowering them to achieve what they’re trying to do.

A small minority will knock it back down and say it’s just causing a distraction because NSW lost in game one. They’ll use it as an excuse that people were distracted, or the players have got family problems.

Speaking about Latrell in particular, he also does a lot of community work and I don’t think that’s what the commentators or the selectors are saying. Are they saying he is doing 'too much work' outside of the game?

 

Is being proud and black costing Latrell his career?

Even the Roosters coach Trent Robinson and the club are backing him and his community work but are NSW backing him?

He says he hasn’t got any problems at home, and it looks a lot like what he’s doing as a proud black Aboriginal man is what’s costing him his opportunity and he’s been dropped because of the pressure the media are putting on him, because there are certain people in the game, on TV and commentators, who are pushing it hard.

If they’ve started something they’ve got to follow it through because you can’t just start something and then jump off the wagon because you’ve got a few people with negative things to say.

On Sunday night for game two, if the players feel strongly about what they’re doing with the anthem, they need to keep doing it.

If they’ve started something they’ve got to follow it through because you can’t just start something and then jump off the wagon because you’ve got a few people with negative things to say.

When you’re making big statements that can change a country’s culture in a positive way, you are gonna be hit with some hard bombs and some hardship. I experienced it myself when I walked out of the NSW team.

But I support those boys’ decision on what they want to do on Sunday and if they do it, good on them, it shows their strength.

 

Timana Tahu is a former rugby league, rugby union player and dual international, husband, father and a vegan advocate and panellist for NITV's Over the Black Dot

Over The Black Dot airs Tuesdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34).