Sport 'Mentally drained': Latrell's brother opens up on social media abuse

12:00  11 december  2019
12:00  11 december  2019 Source:   theage.com.au

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She also explains how some of the abuse she got from social media was so bad that police had to visit her home.

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a group of people playing football on a field: Shaquai Mitchell is having another crack at a rugby league career after taking some time out.© NRL Photos Shaquai Mitchell is having another crack at a rugby league career after taking some time out.

Shaquai Mitchell has heard the noise, whether it be directed at him or younger brother Latrell, and knows the effect it can have.

How the incessant chatter from the stands or social media can pierce even the thickest skins. It has resulted in Latrell becoming "mentally drained" this summer, while in his own case Mitchell needed a sabbatical to escape the pressures that come with professional rugby league.

"I’d lost the love of the game for a while," said Mitchell, who was in the Roosters’ NRL system alongside Latrell before taking a break. "I ended up getting down in the dumps, down in the blues for a little while. I asked for help from the Roosters and they were more than happy to, I thank them a lot for it because I was suffering from anxiety and depression. That’s when the weight started packing on.

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"Being a young fella as well, some of the shit commenting on stuff got me down a little bit. Now, I’ve been able to build that skin again. I know what I’m capable of, people don’t know me from a bar of soap. If that hate me, they hate me, if they like me, they like me.

"You hear a lot of stories that I am here because of Latrell and all of that stuff ... I thought to myself that I’d move on and see how we go, what the next chapter brings me. It brings me here now."

Here is Blacktown Workers, the feeder team of the Manly Sea Eagles. It is a potential pathway to the NRL, a destination many felt he would reach while coming up through the Roosters ranks. As a junior, Shaquai Mitchell was considered every bit as good as Latrell, the siblings starring in the SG Ball premiership-winning side of 2014. Shaquai was even named in the tri-colours’ top-30 squad ahead of the 2019 season, but instead opted for the relative anonymity of park football for Wyong.

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a football player on a field: Shaquai Mitchell on the charge against the Cowboys in under-20s in 2016.© Supplied Shaquai Mitchell on the charge against the Cowboys in under-20s in 2016. There was a moment where he thought about giving away football altogether. The 23-year-old's weight ballooned to 167kg after being struck down by injuries and depression. But a stint with the Roos rekindled his love for league.

"I spoke to them about my history, about my mental illness," he said. "Obviously the depression and anxiety, I was really suffering with that.

"It was mainly injuries and the mental illness that set me back from where I would have been. My mentality wasn’t in a good spot, my physicality wasn’t there any more. They even found abnormalities in my heart rate last year, I had to lose weight … and I was only 22 years old.

"I went and got it checked out, because of my anxiety my chest felt real tight. It stopped me from training.

"At one point I wouldn’t be in crowds, I used to think I would stand out. I thought 'Oh no, people are looking at me, I’m 160kg'. I thought people are looking at me thinking 'What’s this big fella doing?'

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"People would be looking at me playing footy and be screaming at me. It’s the name of the game, I guess, trying to put me off my game. But it really got to me and I stressed a lot because of anxiety and depression. Then all of a sudden they found an abnormality with my heart rate."

The heart and head are again in a good place. Mitchell has slimmed down to about 147kg and is hoping to shed more weight before the NSW Cup season begins. He can now also better cope with the unrealistic comparisons between him and other notable Roosters.

"A lot of the fans were calling me the next Arthur Beetson," he said. "That’s a massive name to live up to. Arthur Beetson is probably the best front-rower to play the game ... it made me blush, it made me go a bit red.

"I’m nowhere near that. People thinking about that, it was a good compliment, but I didn’t think so myself."

Mitchell is working hard on and off the field. His day job as a labourer has given him an income and a perspective about how fortunate he is to be back playing the game he loves.

"I’m over the moon I’ve been given this opportunity," he said. "It made me realise, for me personally, if an opportunity pops up again I can offer a lot to the game.

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Socializing can be draining enough. It can be even more tiring when you feel you have to hide it Getting it all out in the open may take some of its power away. Decreasing your tendency to get Everything is more draining and mentally taxing where we're not as proficient at it, or you haven't

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"Hopefully I can see what I can do eventually in the NRL. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. We’ll see how I go."

Latrell Mitchell faced criticism, and far worse, on social media during the 2019 season.© Getty Latrell Mitchell faced criticism, and far worse, on social media during the 2019 season. Mitchell’s experiences also provide an insight into the pressures young footballers face. The scrutiny on Latrell has been intense and big brother marvels at how well he handles it. However, there have been times when the Roosters star has felt the strain.

"People have got to realise that families see [social media criticism], it breaks their hearts," he said. "It hurts the person more because the family member is seeing that.

"What I’ve seen with Latrell when he was back home at Taree fighting the bushfires, he’s a strong individual, I can tell you that. He’s been backlashed a lot, people telling him this and that.

"He’s just focused on himself and getting himself back on track because he was going down mentally, he was mentally drained. That’s why he put up that article [on nrl.com].

"He loves the bush, he went in the bush to find himself. It was good."

Mitchell said the expectations on Latrell were often unrealistic.

"Latrell has won two premierships back-to-back, made history as the highest point-scorer in the NRL this year," he said. "You can’t just turn around and expect they are going to play like that 100 games straight, that they are all his best games all year. You’re going to have your ups and downs, that’s what people don’t realise until they lace up a pair of boots and jump on an NRL field.

"The passion in the game lifts the fans, it’s exceptional, but sometimes it gets out of hand and gets upsetting.

"He’s handled it very well personally, when I see him. He’s still got a smile on his face, he’s still happy. He’s doing the things that he loves, helping the community. I can’t be more proud of him, all the backlash he’s copped from social media. He’s really handled it well, he’s matured out of his shoes. I can’t be more proud of him."

Tigers declare no interest in Latrell .
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