SOUTH Sydney Rabbitohs star Cody Walker has branded constant speculation over Latrell Mitchell's future as "unfair and unwarranted" during a visit to Wagga for the Yandarra Festival on Sunday.
The future of off-contract Roosters centre Mitchell has dominated NRL media the past week after the premiers took an offer to the 22-year-old off the table.
Mitchell was scheduled to attend the community day, and a function addressing mental health and suicide prevention at Tolland the day before, but Walker's Rabbitohs teammate James Roberts came instead.
AFL players Allen Christensen (Brisbane) and Sean Lemmens (Gold Coast) also attended as Walker threw his support behind fellow Indigenous star Mitchell.
"It's obviously not the ideal situation to be in but I just think the criticism that's come from it is pretty unwarranted, it's unfair and he's got every right to explore his options," Walker said.
"He had five or six articles about him in one day, I think it's quite unfair.
"I texted him the other day to see if he was OK and that he's got so much support behind him that if he ever needs to talk to anyone I'm always here."
Walker, who underwent a reconstruction on his right shoulder almost two weeks ago, is also enduring the contract rumour mill.
He took to social media on Sunday to address the rumours that he and his management want more money than the Rabbitohs are prepared to pay, insisting the club hasn't even made an offer.
The five-eighth is extremely confident an agreement will be struck with the 2015 premiers.
"I put something out today on my Instagram saying I was quite disappointed with the rumours getting around, and the media saying I'd rejected an offer from Souths that I haven't even received," he said.
"I love South Sydney, I want to stay there and I"ve got no doubt we'll come to an agreement over the next couple of months.
"There's no need to rush into it, I've got another year left on my contract. It's home for me and these things happen when you're off contract, rumours start to circulate and I've got no doubt we'll get a deal sorted."
Walker is confident his shoulder surgery won't keep him out of action for the start of next season.
"I actually did it in round two this year," Walker said.
"I thought I might have been able to avoid surgery but we made a decision with the medical group and Wayne (Bennett, Souths coach) that it was probably a good opportunity to get the shoulder done, and get it as strong as it's ever been.
"I didn't want to go into the season with any risks, if I did it next year I would have to go under the knife anyway, so it's best to get it done now while I have time to recover and be back for round one."
It is the second straight year Walker has attended the Yandarra Festival, which means 'coming together' in Wiradjuri.
He said it's vital high profile Indigenous players give youngsters an up close example of what they can achieve through hard work.
"I came here last year and was pretty excited to come back out," Walker said.
"We were at Tolland on Saturday and to see the kids' faces light up when they see me and Jimmy and the AFL boys, it's a great feeling to have.
"It's why we do what we do, to inspire the younger generation to follow their dream and have a crack.
"I grew up in a small country town (Casino) populated by Indigenous people and what we faced as young kids, that's what we're facing now.
"We reiterate we went through the struggles they are right now and made the right choices to get where we are.
"We can send the message that if we got through it, they can."