The NRL’s attempt to avoid the drama of an anthem debate has backfired as four players have once again boycotted singing the national song.
The NRL’s attempt to avoid the drama of an anthem debate has backfired as four players have once again boycotted singing the national song.

Four Origin stars boycott national anthem

The State of Origin anthem debate is set to reignite after four players were seen not singing the national anthem before the opening game of the 2020 series.

Blues stars Cody Walker, Payne Haas and Josh Addo-Carr and Maroon winger Dane Gagai chose not to sing the anthem.

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It comes after Walker and Addo-Carr as well as Latrell Mitchell abstained from singing last year, sparking a major furore which bled into 2020 when the NRL attempted to scrap the national anthem from the series.

But the governing body of the competition backflipped, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepping in to ensure the anthem was played.

Sky News host Chris Smith said the NRL "took the coward's way out" with its original move to ban the anthem, which was "one of the most pathetic decisions ever made by a sporting organisation".

He added "the code's charity work in Aboriginal communities is second to none".

"Those players should be using their status to unite black and white and commemorate the code's Indigenous history, not divide young fans of the game and guilt the NRL into no longer celebrating this great country," he said.

Indigenous NRL stars Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr have stood strong in their stance against singing the anthem.
Indigenous NRL stars Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr have stood strong in their stance against singing the anthem.

The Daily Telegraph's Paul Kent said the NRL's political posturing had to stop while 2GB host Jim Wilson said the move was common sense.

But speaking on former NRL player Denan Kemp's podcast Bloke In A Bar, Latrell Mitchell, who missed much of the second half of the season through injury, further explained his protest of Advance Australia Fair.

Mitchell said the line "Our home is girt by sea" is particularly difficult for him to accept.

"If you're going to say nobody was here when you discovered it, then where were we?" Mitchell asked.

It comes after sports commentator Peter FitzSimons told Channel 9 it is not for Fittler to decide if his players can talk about the issue.

"I can absolutely understand why Brad wants nothing to do with that," he said.

"When he goes into the anthem, 'This is nothing to do with us, they may have their views but from now on … we're rugby league players first and we're not going to be saying anything about the anthem' - I respectfully submit, Brad, that's not your call.

"There are things more important than being a rugby league player, being an Australian is one of them and many of your fine players, being people of the First Nations, I think if they choose to say something about the anthem … and when you're asking Indigenous men to sing 'For we are young and free …' that is an absolute direct denial of the truth."

There was even more drama before kick-off with Channel 9 being slammed by fans and footy commentators for cutting away from the Welcome to Country and speaking over the top of the traditional presentation.

Former AFL star Tony Armstrong led the outcry after local elder Karl Telfer, a Kaurna man from the Adelaide Plains region, welcomed the State of Origin to the local area.

However as he finished his welcome and a traditional dance began to be performed while Telfer played a didgeridoo, Channel 9 host James Bracey began speaking over the top of the music and eventually cut away from the dance to an interview between Karl Stefanovic and Andrew Johns.

"The locals are certainly loving it here at the Adelaide Oval," Bracey said over the top of the Welcome to Country.

"The atmosphere certainly is building and we are moments away from kick-off. Karl, you're with Joey."

Originally published as Four Origin stars boycott national anthem


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