Barnett opens up over ugly racism allegation
It says a lot about Mitch Barnett's character the way he speaks about a moment that threatened to ruin his reputation this year.
Instead of anger and resentment, the tough Newcastle forward talks with maturity and compassion about claims from Gold Coast's Tyrone Peachey who accused Barnett of calling him a "black c***" during their final round match.
The NRL investigation ultimately found no evidence of the allegations but still ordered the two players to sit down and talk it out as part of a conciliatory process.
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More than two months on, Barnett says he is still limited to what he can say because of confidentiality reasons but concedes in the end they "agreed to disagree".
But Barnett certainly took positives out of the process.
"I had to acknowledge the fact as well that (racism) is a part of today's society even though we don't want it to be and it does impact people," Barnett said.
"I understand the impact it has on people that some people in the world I guess might not, which is disappointing.
"So it is a very touchy situation.
"But I definitely had to stand up for myself because like I said I didn't say it."
And that is the one thing Barnett never wavered on.
While he conceded that he had used the c-word during the heat of battle, Barnett was adamant from the moment it happened that he never made a racial reference.
He maintains his only intention was to honour the values raised in him by his mother.
"I just don't want my name attached to something like that," Barnett said.
"I was always told be honest.
"My mum has always told me that.
"Whether you are right or wrong, just be honest.
"I know I didn't say it.
"But it is what it is and I have moved on.
"I am looking forward to a new year."
Barnett has consistently been one of Newcastle's best for several seasons now and admits State of Origin is the next goal on his radar for 2021.
"Definitely. I really want to play rep footy," he said.
"If I can improve on what I did last season and play consistently I think I give myself every chance.
"But if that doesn't come about I want to do better as a team and I want to be contribute to that. I want to finish the year better than what we did."
When Barnett arrived at the Knights they were the easy beats of the comp. Now they are back playing finals, his aim is to leave the club in a better place.
"I think that is what everyone wants to do," he said.
"You want to impact the club and leave it in a better place.
"I'd love to leave this club as a grand final winner or even just being successful, playing deep into the finals and consistently."
Originally published as Barnett opens up over ugly racism allegation