The Australian Rugby League Commission’s Indigenous Council was not consulted when the NRL decided to axe the national anthem at this year’s State of Origin, nor was it consulted when the decision was reversed shortly after.
Last week the NRL announced it would not be playing the anthem before games, a year after Indigenous players from New South Wales opted out of singing in last year’s State of Origin.
While the decision to scrap the anthem was made in consultation with the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the NRL, the ARLC Indigenous Council was not consulted.
The league quickly backpedalled the decision only hours after it was made due to backlash from fans and personal intervention from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“Our decision not to play the anthem was never about politics. We have always been committed to the anthem as shown at the Grand Final last weekend,” said ARLC Chair Peter V’landys in a statement.
“However, having listened to the public response and given the strong national unity in fighting the COVID pandemic together, the Commission has decided it is important to ensure that unity continues.
“We have always been a Commission that listens to our fans. We have heard the message and acted accordingly.”
NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo also said Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a phone call to V’landys, making a case that playing the anthem before the game would provide “national unity after a year of hardship”.
A statement was released by the Prime Minister’s Office after the decision was reversed, praising the NRL.
“The NRL have done the right thing by listening to their fans and acting quickly to overturn their choice not to play the national anthem at the Origin series,” said the Prime Minister.
Wiradjuri man and former NRL player Joe Williams as well as other commentators took to Twitter about the issue.
Im still coming to terms with @ScottMorrisonMP took a holiday when the country was on fire & was nowhere to be seen..
But made a call within 2hrs of an announcement that a song about England wasn’t to be played before a footy game..
That’s some priorities..
— Joe Williams – TEW (@joewilliams_tew) October 29, 2020
‘Keep politics out of sport’ is code for ‘leave the outdated politics that are already in sport there and keep out any contemporary considerations that might better represent a mature society with the capacity for growth and reflection’
— Pearson In The Wind (@LukeLPearson) October 29, 2020
Funny the things they find worthy of ministerial intervention ay. Got little kids rotting in cages, nah won’t act there. Got the world burning down, nah he doesn’t hold a hose. But have a game of footy without a gammon song and look at him run to intervene. https://t.co/bcMFXukleA
— Amy Thunig (@AmyThunig) October 29, 2020
Indigenous NSW stars Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr remained silent during the national anthem at last year’s State of Origin.
Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker also said last year the anthem didn’t represent himself or his family and that a decision about the anthem needed to be made.
This year’s All Stars game saw the anthem scrapped after players voiced their concerns.
The first game of the State of Origin will be played in Adelaide on Wednesday, with the national anthem to be played before the kick off.
ARLC Indigenous Council Chair Katrina Fanning was contacted for comment.
By Grace Crivellaro