NRL Rd 16 - Eels v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs looks on during the round 16 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on August 27, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

South Sydney Rabbitohs' CEO Blake Solly has slammed the NRL over their treatment of star fullback Latrell Mitchell.

Mitchell's 2021 season came to an end when he was suspended over a sickening shot to Sydney Roosters' centre Joseph Manu in the final rounds of the year.

The Rabbitohs went on to make the grand final without their star fullback, eventually falling to the Penrith Panthers in the decider.

But that doesn't mean the NRL won't play up the game's most famous rivalry - the Rabbitohs and Roosters - on the back of that shot.

Mitchell has been pencilled into make his return from suspension when the two teams meet for the first time in 2022 in what could be a firey encounter between the sides.

But Rabbitohs' CEO Solly wasn't buying it as a rivalry, calling the NRL out for not protecting Mitchell.

It's understood the Rabbitohs were privately disappointed with the NRL, according to The Sydney Morning Herald for their treatment of the case, as well as their lack of defence when it came to the criticism he received following the shot on Manu, and at other times.

“The NRL are quick to utilise Latrell and his profile to market the competition or ask him to take a leadership position on issues such as vaccination – when it benefits them,” he said. “It would be more impressive if they were as quick to protect and defend him from some of the outrageous personal criticism and abuse he receives at other times," Solly said.

It followed NRL CEO Andrew Abdo's reaction to Mitchell's return being announced against the Roosters, where he was seen to be smiling.

It has been reported that the Rabbitohs were less than pleased with the reaction of the game's CEO, although Abdo has now defended his reaction to the publication.

“I certainly didn’t mean any disrespect by smiling or my comments,” Abdo said.

“The draw throws up lots of situations and we don’t focus on one individual. I was smiling because it wasn’t something that was planned for or I had thought about."