‘Cowards’: Australia reacts to NRL’s national anthem backflip
‘Cowards’: Australia reacts to NRL’s national anthem backflip

‘Cowards’: Australia reacts to anthem move

The NRL has been gang-tackled by several leading commentators after an embarrassing day which saw it backflip on plans to scrap the national anthem from its State of Origin series.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepped in to ensure Advance Australia Fair was played before this year's matches between NSW and Queensland after a furious backlash to the NRL's decision.

Despite changing its mind, the league has continued to cop it.

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".

"A group of Indigenous Origin players refused to sing the anthem last year as a protest against the white invasion of Australia," he said. "So to avoid embarrassment, (NRL CEO Andrew) Abdo took the coward's way out and banned the anthem altogether."

"The Australian anthem will now be played as it always should be," Smith added. "As for the stance taken by some indigenous players, the NRL holds an indigenous round each year, has a great history of giving skilled indigenous players opportunities they wouldn't normally receive, and 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."

The Daily Telegraph's Paul Kent said the NRL's political posturing had to stop.

"Why the NRL continues to try to position itself in political matters is something the game has not explained," Kent wrote.

"Sporting codes should represent everybody and not decide who is wrong or right, or force those who love their game to have to get behind a political position they don't support.

"Nobody tells NRL fans whether they should vote Liberal or Labor, and the rest of politics should be the same."

2GB radio host Jim Wilson described the correction as "common sense".

The teams line up as the Australian national anthem is played during game two of the 2019 State of Origin series. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)
The teams line up as the Australian national anthem is played during game two of the 2019 State of Origin series. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

"It's an event of national significance and it's our national anthem," he tweeted. "The public has spoken and I'm glad the NRL had a rethink … This year more than ever we need to be united."

But sports journalist Brad Walters said the backflip was "not representative of the public's view".

"Advance Australia Fair is divisive and offensive," he tweeted. "I feel uncomfortable whenever it is played because of the hurt it causes Indigenous Australians. I've felt strongly about this for a long time and will continue to try to educate others."

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons took aim at Morrison for saying it had never been more important to come together and sing the anthem as one after a year of "struggle and heartbreak".

"Yes, Prime Minister. After a very tough year of plague and pestilence, of lockdown and a languishing economy, having the league players sing the national anthem will make it all better," he wrote.

The Project's Peter van Onselen also took issue with the Prime Minister getting involved.

"Personally I think the national anthem should be played at the State of Origin," he tweeted. "But a PM calling to demand it gets played feels like throwing ones weight around."

NSW coach Brad Fittler wasn't bothered by the decision. "I'm not good at politics, I try to stay out of it," he said.

"If they play it, they play it. If they don't, they don't. We're there for a game of footy.

"I do think it's time, the landscape has changed a little bit, to maybe revise the words or have a look at it, where they ask everyone in Australia."

A news.com.au poll which asked readers if the national anthem should be scrapped for State of Origin received more than 11,000 votes and was 80 per cent in favour of retaining the anthem.

Originally published as 'Cowards': Australia reacts to anthem move


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