Sydney Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves insists he remains friends with Latrell Mitchell, but was coy when asked about last season’s explosive post-match scenes, which have set up one of the most feisty derbies yet between the two historic clubs.
Mitchell has already conceded he will be in the sights of his former Roosters teammates on Friday night after the fallout from his high shot on good friend Joey Manu last year.
Victor Radley will be one Rooster itching to get at South Sydney after being cleared by the match review committee on Saturday for a hit on Manly’s Kieran Foran.
Manu has already said he has no lingering resentment towards Mitchell, but both clubs have not forgotten the fireworks and words exchanged during and after the round 24 clash at Suncorp Stadium last year.
The Herald reported at the time Mitchell and Waerea-Hargreaves traded barbs on the sideline. Channel Nine footage captured an upset Mitchell walking away from a player outside the Roosters’ tunnel, believed to be Waerea-Hargreaves.
Sources with knowledge of the incident claimed Mitchell went to check on Manu before a fired-up Waerea-Hargreaves told him the Roosters centre had suffered facial fractures. Mitchell shook his head and walked away.
“I can’t remember, bro,” was all Waerea-Hargreaves told The Sun-Herald when asked about the flash point with Mitchell.
The fiery scenes during last year’s round 24 Roosters-Souths clash.Credit:Getty
“Of course [we’re friends]. We played for years together here [at the Roosters]. It’s rugby league. We play with passion. You obviously want to stick up for your teammates.”
Roosters playmaker and 2014 South Sydney premiership winner Luke Keary has experienced the rivalry from both sides and did not expect Mitchell to tone anything down on Friday.
“I played next to Latrell for four years and he’s big, powerful and strong – one of the best players [in the game],” Keary said.
“Yes, he’s aggressive and, yes, you want him to be aggressive. That’s his game. He can intimidate, but he’s also super skilful, he has it all.”
Souths hooker Damien Cook said he only realised the full extent of the Mitchell-Manu fallout once he watched replays of the incident. Manu’s face immediately swelled and as he charged towards Mitchell was picked up by TV microphones telling the 24-year-old it was a “dog shot”.
“Latrell and Joey have both come out and said it’s behind them and they’ve moved on but, to be honest, [that incident] will definitely add to next weekend,” Cook said.
Souths enforcer Jai Arrow, who was punched in the head by Roosters rookie Daniel Suluka-Fifita in his first derby game during the corresponding round last year, said: “I reckon Latrell can handle himself; he’s doing all right for himself with the size he’s got and the power he’s got.
“We won’t have to protect him. There are no grudges held. That was a long time ago now and I’m sure they’ve all moved on from it. We definitely have.
Who would seriously want to upset Roosters hitman Jared Waerea-Hargreaves?Credit:Getty
“It’s a good rivalry between the two clubs. We’ll be getting stuck into each other no doubt.”
Mitchell returned from his six-match Manu ban on Thursday night against Melbourne whose fans booed him with his first hit-up.
The reaction shocked Souths officials and players who did not expect a repeat in front of their own supporters on Friday, and could only hope there were no frosty receptions for their No.1 at future away games.
Souths officials recalled Mitchell being devastated in the sheds after the 54-12 hammering of the Roosters and his main concern was the welfare of Manu rather than how many weeks on the sideline he would serve through suspension.
The Redfern club are desperate for their first win of the season and know there is the risk of starting the campaign 0-4 with premiers Penrith awaiting them on Friday week.
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