Caroline Wilson takes aim at AFLW over Queen Elizabeth 'mess'

·4-min read
Footy journalist Caroline Wilson is pictured here alongside a photo of an AFL tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Footy journalist Caroline Wilson says the AFLW never should have held tributes to the late Queen during Indigenous Round. Pic: Getty/Ch9

Veteran footy journalist Caroline Wilson has described the AFLW's backflip on tributes to Queen Elizabeth over the weekend as a "public relations mess" and says the divisive drama should never have happened.

The AFLW was left mired in controversy after a decision to scrap planned tributes to the late Queen, before each game over the weekend.

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The 96-year-old monarch died late last week, with many sporting codes around the world pausing to honour her memory, while many others, particularly throughout the UK, have been postponed entirely.

A minute's silence was observed prior to the opening AFLW match of the round, but it was subsequently scrapped for remaining games.

The reason being was that the AFLW were celebrating Indigenous Round and many in that community felt that it didn't sit right with tributes to the late British monarch.

The decision caused backlash among some observers, however Western Bulldogs director Belinda Duarte explained that commemorating the Queen's legacy "unearthed deep wounds" among Indigenous people.

“While for many Australians it’s seen as appropriate to recognise the significance of the Queen’s passing, we must understand what this brings up for First Peoples, the impact of colonisation and what the monarchy represents to us and our families,” Duarte said.

AFL reporter Sam Edmund revealed on Twitter that an Indigenous elder who had agreed to do the Welcome to Country for the Bulldogs-Fremantle fixture backed out over the planned minute of silence.

"The AFL's decision to banish the minute's silence for the Queen in the remaining AFLW indigenous round matches came to a head last night," Edmund posted on Saturday.

"The minute's silence for Dogs-Freo at Ikon Park prompted the Welcome to Country person to withdraw. AFL listened to club feedback & acted."

Speaking about the drama on Channel Nine's Footy Classified on Monday night, Wilson said the AFL should have had more foresight than to plan the tributes to the late Queen during the AFLW's Indigenous Round.

Caroline Wilson slams 'public relations mess'

“The AFL badly botched the tribute to Queen Elizabeth, where its women’s competition was concerned,” Wilson said.

“At Friday night’s Bulldogs-Fremantle clash, the pre-game one-minute silence for the late monarch did not sit comfortably for some of Australia’s First Peoples, given as it followed so immediately after the Acknowledgment of Country, to open the AFLW Indigenous Round.

“So the remaining one-minute silences were scrapped for the rest of the women’s round, a move which in turn incensed a number of football supporters and became a headline by Saturday morning.

“Not only did it take away from a moving and stirring tribute at the MCG on Friday night for the men’s semi-final, but it turned a tide of public opinion against the women footballers, unfairly.

“It was divisive and it needn’t have happened.

“Why the AFL boss or bosses who made this call didn’t take into account the sensitivities of the women’s Indigenous Round and only hold the one-minute silence for the men’s competition in the first place is beyond me.

“It was a public relations mess, and it was upsetting for many people on both sides.

“No wonder no one has put their hand up to take responsibility.”

Co-host Craig Hutchison suggested that Wilson's comments were "a little unfair" and that the Queen's sudden death didn't leave much time to discuss and plan any potential tributes.

Seen here, a minute of silence is observed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II during the first AFL semi-final between the Collingwood Magpies and Fremantle Dockers.
A minute of silence is observed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II during the first AFL semi-final between the Collingwood Magpies and Fremantle Dockers. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

“It was an unexpected passing, and there was a lot going in a short period of time to work through,” he said.

However, Wilson says officials should have realised tributes to the Queen were incongruous with Indigenous Round.

“I think very quickly it would have been obvious that this was not appropriate for some people.

“By doing it, it’s upset people on both sides.”

In contrast, a minute's silence was held before the men's AFL and NRL finals matches around the country over the weekend.

At the MCG, flags were flown at half mast, the stadium was shrouded in the royal colour of purple and tributes to Queen Elizabeth II were shown on big screens around the ground.

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