Indigenous players perform a traditional war cry before the NRL Indigenous All Stars versus Maori All Stars match at AAMI Park, Melbourne on Friday night. Picture: Daniel Pockett/AAP
Indigenous players perform a traditional war cry before the NRL Indigenous All Stars versus Maori All Stars match at AAMI Park, Melbourne on Friday night. Picture: Daniel Pockett/AAP

All Stars skipper defends national anthem snub

NRL fans have been divided over the controversial moment the Indigenous All Stars team did not sing the Australian national anthem ahead of their clash with the New Zealand Maori All Stars on Friday night at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

The pre-game entertainment was a rich celebration of Aboriginal and Maori cultures, but many fans could not look past the moment Channel 9 cameras showed what seemed to be the entire Indigenous team choosing not to sing Advance Australia Fair after the New Zealand side had earlier sung God Defend New Zealand.

Fans have been divided on many points, including if the Indigenous team deliberately chose not to sing the anthem in trying to make a statement, or if they chose not to sing the anthem to show their respect while remaining silent.

News.com.au instigated an online poll, asking: "NRL fans have been left divided over the moment the Indigenous All Stars team did not sing the Australian national anthem. Do you agree with their decision to snub the tradition?"

Some 9300 fans had responded by mid-afternoon on Saturday, with 34 per cent agreeing and 66 per cent in the negative.

Skipper Cody Walker called for the national anthem to be changed, saying the current song didn't "represent myself and my family".

"To be honest, no," Walker said when asked if he was comfortable standing for the Australian anthem.

"It just brings back so many memories of what's happened (in Australia's past).

"It's something that everyone as a group and everyone in Australia need to get together and working something out.

"It doesn't represent myself and my family."

The NRL has also come under fire for deciding to play the Australian national anthem before the match after recent calls from NRL great and boxing star Anthony Mundine for NRL players to boycott the national anthem.

Anthony Mundine had called for a boycott of the national anthem.
Anthony Mundine had called for a boycott of the national anthem.

"The anthem was written in late 1700s where blackfullas (sic) were considered fauna (animals). Advance Australia Fair as in white not fair as in fair go," Mundine wrote on Facebook.

"All players aboriginal & non aboriginal should boycott the anthem & start changing Australia's ignorant mentality ... lets move forward together yo."

NRL fans flocked to social media on Friday night to criticise both the NRL and the Indigenous players.

NRL.com reported earlier this week that the NRL had hoped the Australian national anthem could be sung in the language of the Wurundjeri people - the traditional custodians of the land where the city of Melbourne was established.

Unfortunately, the anthem has never been translated into the Woiwurrung language.

In the NRL's Indigenous Round last year, the Australian anthem was performed in several Aboriginal languages before matches.

Meanwhile, former NRL player Joe Williams also made a public plea for the national anthem to be boycotted.

"Imagine if a couple of guys did it on grand final day - what a powerful message it would send to white Australia," Williams told Rugby League Week.

"It would bring all the racism that's in the closet to the surface - the racism we have to put up with every day. The way we are treated in shops, the way people look at us on the street and the way the government treats us.

"It's time it stopped. And our footballers are role models and the ideal ones to bring about change."

The Indigenous team went on to perform a spirited and powerful war cry, led by Roosters star Latrell Mitchell as a dramatic response to the New Zealand team's haka.