State of Origin series to feature national anthem after fans criticise plan to ditch Advance Australia Fair

Anthems during the State of Origin in 2019. Photo: Photosport

Shortly after it was revealed that the national anthem would not be played at State of Origin games, the NRL has backflipped, confirming Advance Australia Fair will go ahead before the games as normal.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) said the move was in response to a backlash by fans after the initial decision to scrap the anthem was reported by News Corp.

“The original decision not to play the anthem at Origin was about the rivalry and tribalism associated with the Origin series,” ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said.

“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.”

After the decision was revealed, V’landys also received a call from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said fans would not support the removal of the anthem.

“This is a welcome decision by 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,” the Prime Minister said.

“We have all faced a year of struggle and heartbreak and it has never been more important to be coming together to celebrate Australia and to be able to sing together our national anthem at the game so many of us love.”

Indigenous protests during last year’s series

The first game of the coronavirus-delayed series will be played in Adelaide on Wednesday, with Advance Australia Fair played before the games despite silent protests from Indigenous players last year.

Indigenous New South Wales stars Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr famously opted to stay silent during the song before last year’s games.

This season, the ARLC ditched the anthem for the Indigenous All Stars game after listening to players’ concerns that “the words of the anthem do not represent them or their families”.

The initial decision around this year’s Origin games was reportedly made after the NRL’s independent commission spoke to the chairmen of New South Wales Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League.

In 2017, the ARLC played an alternative version of the anthem, as well as the original, during its Indigenous round.

The reworked anthem, which aimed to “reach out to Indigenous Australians‚Ķ [and] all Australians”, acknowledged that Australia is not “young”, as the first line of Advance Australia Fair says, but includes “ancient history and culture”.

Indigenous ARLC member Chris Sarra said “as a game, we want to lead in this space”.

“We have embraced diversity and want to give Australia a glimpse of what a positive, more inclusive future looks like,” he said.

“Anyone who is content to leave people at the margins, they must be girt by ignorance and a lack of compassion.”

ABC

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