AFL boss and Daniel Andrews respond to Sam Newman's call to boo Welcome to Country

The outspoken Geelong Cats great is copping backlash for his provocative comments.

Gillon McLachlan, Daniel Andrews and Sam Newman.
Gillon McLachlan (L) and Daniel Andrews (R) have both rejected Sam Newman's call to boo the Welcome to Country. Image: Getty/AAP

Gillon McLachlan and Daniel Andrews have responded to Sam Newman's call for AFL fans to boo the Welcome to Country at this year's grand final, with both rejecting his comments. Speaking on his 'You Cannot Be Serious' podcast this week, the Geelong Cats great urged spectators to 'slow hand clap' and boo the Indigenous ceremony at the grand final at the MCG.

"If we are at all serious about the Welcome to Country and the nonsense that has suddenly taken over in the last 20 years from a completely harmless introduction by Ernie Dingo some years ago and people have latched onto it," Newman said. "What about this, next time you go to a public event like the grand final or a football game or any public event in an auditorium and they trot out the Welcome to Country, start booing ... or slow hand clapping.

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"Because we don't want to put up with it. We are not going to be patronised. Of course it's being rude, and so who is forcing this nonsense onto us? Who is telling us that we should be welcomed to (the) country that we live in, that we try and cohabitate, cohabit with all the people that have come here - particularly the Indigenous people."

A Welcome to Country ceremony, pictured here being performed before an AFL game between West Coast and Essendon.
A Welcome to Country ceremony is performed before an AFL game between West Coast and Essendon. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The 77-year-old doubled down in an interview with 3AW radio, saying: “The public have had a gutful of people telling us how to live our lives, particularly footballing organisations. We like to go to the football and watch the game without being told to vote for the gay marriage proposal … without being told to vote for the Voice. Why do they get involved?

“It is an absolute hoax, it’s a rort, the Welcome to Country. Why do we have to be welcomed to the country we live in? Why is that? It is just a mark of division. The people who welcome you to country get a nice stipend out of it. Why do they charge? It’s just a rort.

“My statement on the podcast was a provocative suggestion that people push back on this nonsense. It’s cringe-worthy to have to watch.”

Gillon McLachlan and Daniel Andrews respond to Sam Newman

On Thursday, outgoing AFL boss McLachlan refused to respond directly to Newman, but said: “I’m not going to dignify those sort of individual responses out in the community other than to say I disagree very definitively. I think that the Welcome to Country across the finals series and the anthem have been respected significantly … people stand, they clap, they feel included.

“It rolls into the anthem and then it rolls into the start of our game, it is a glistening part of our game now. It’s been spectacular football, spectacular crowds and the pre-match has been respected by all our supporters and then launched into the game.

"I couldn’t be happier with how the finals series has been playing out. I think that our supporters know where they stand, they’ve been the proper football supporters who are at the games, (they) have been totally respectful.”

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Victorian Premier Andrews said he couldn't understand why anyone would want to boo the Welcome to Country. “Why would you say no to all the wisdom, all the richness that comes from that? I don’t think that would be the right thing to do," he told reporters.

“That’s not something I’d do. That might be his view, but that‘s not my view. I don‘t think that celebrating all that ownership, custodianship of Aboriginal people had given to us today – those Songlines, that history, the warmth with which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is shared with the broader contemporary community, that’s not something to boo.

“When it comes to views of former footballers, I’d be more inclined to listen to uncle Michael Long on these sorts of issues than Sam Newman. Like every day, and twice on Sunday‘s I’d listen to Michael Long [rather] than Sammy. I don’t think that’s a very generous thing to be putting forward. I don‘t think it’s right at all."

Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe has called on the AFL to ban Newman from games and strip him of his life membership. "A Welcome to Country is simply that," she told Channel 9. "We all are on stolen land, there has never been a treaty, and a Welcome to Country is a way to bring people along on an understanding of the country that you are all living on. So it's a peaceful - it's about peace and the whole message behind a Welcome to Country is about respect and bringing people together."

She later told Channel 7: "The AFL should write (Newman) a letter of give him a call and say you're not welcome.'

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