All Stars may scrap national anthem
The NRL's indigenous advisory group has discussed dumping the national anthem from the ceremony for next year's All Stars game.
Sources told News Corp Australia that the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, which is chaired by ACT Australian of the year Katrina Fanning and includes Laurie Daley and All Stars founder Preston Campbell, spoke about the issue at a meeting this week.
They are expected to make a final decision in coming days and could put a proposal before the ARL Commission for consideration at their next meeting, in February next year.
Stream over 50 sports Live & On-Demand with KAYO SPORTS on your TV, computer, mobile or tablet. Just $25/month, no lock-in contract. Get your 14-day free trial and start streaming instantly >
The national anthem has been a simmering issue for indigenous players across the code in recent seasons, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Cody Walker among those to make a very public stand against Advance Australia Fair.
The trio failed to sing the anthem before State of Origin games this year, a decision that divided opinion and threatened to hijack the lead-up to the opening game of the series at Suncorp Stadium.
All three also remained silent when the anthem was played prior to last year's Indigenous All Stars game.
On that occasion, they were among a clutch of players who declined to sing - Will Chambers, Blake Ferguson, James Roberts, Tyrone Peachey and Tyrone Roberts also remained silent.
It now appears there is every chance the anthem will be scrapped before next year's version of a game, which was devised by Campbell to celebrate the contribution of indigenous players to rugby league.
While scrapping the anthem would be controversial, it would take some heat out of the issue in the lead-up to what is meant to be a celebration of the game's indigenous influence.
There is also a view in some quarters that the anthem should only be played before games featuring the national side.
The latest development comes at a time when racism has reared its ugly head again in rugby league. Mitchell, currently in the final year of a deal at the Sydney Roosters but engaged in contract talks with rival clubs, gave an interview last weekend in which he suggested his decision not to sing the anthem had impacted on his place in the NSW side.
Blues officials were seething and demanded that the comment be removed from an article on the NRL's own website.
Mitchell, in particular, has become a lightning rod for indigenous issues in the game after being targeted by racist trolls this year.
He was among a host of indigenous players who only recently spent time together working on their leadership skills and discussing their place in the game.
It is understood the group, which also included Walker and James Roberts, spent time with senior indigenous figures in the game and the All Stars concept was discussed.
They also held talks with ARL Commissioner Megan Davis, who will ultimately have a say in whether the anthem is played before the All Stars game should the ARLIC decide to recommend scrapping it.
According to the NRL website, the ARLIC was set up to represent the views and ideas of Indigenous peoples and act as a sounding board for the Australian Rugby League Commission. The ARLIC also provides strategic advice as required from time to time to all key stakeholders within the game.
The sense is that the NRL is careering towards its Colin Kaepernick moment, a nod to the NFL star who has been exiled from the game over his stance against the US national anthem.
NRL players may not kneel like Kapernick did, but a flashpoint appears on the horizon. Wiser heads involved in the game can no doubt see it coming, hence the discussion over sidelining the anthem during next year's All Stars game.
Any such decision will rest with the ARL Commission led by chair Peter V'landys at the February meeting.
That meeting was expected to bring about changes at commission level with the appointment of a replacement for Mark Coyne.
It now could be forced to tackle a more divisive issue.
The Indigenous All Stars game will return to the Gold Coast next season, a decade after it was first played at Cbus Super Stadium.
On that occasion, the indigenous All Stars played an NRL All Stars side.
Next year, for the second year in succession, they will face a Maori All Star outfit.