Anthem the talk of Origin pre-game

Steve Larkin
·2-min read

Australia's national anthem is used to being sung, not spoken of.

Yet Advance Australia Fair was the talk of many towns ahead of Wednesday night's State of Origin opener in Adelaide.

The anthem was initially dropped from the program when the NRL scrapped it for Origin matches.

Barely two hours later, the predictable outcry included Prime Minister Scott Morrison pressing the case for its reinstatement.

Morrison argued for the anthem as a symbol of national unity in a year of hardship in a phone call to ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys, who promptly ordered a reprieve.

Advance Australia Fair was also a focus in last year's series, when Indigenous Blues trio Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr spoke pre-game about their refusal to sing.

On Wednesday night Walker, Addo-Carr and others stood silently while the anthem was performed by Adelaide singer-songwriter Rachel Leahcar.

Morrison and the NRL hierarchy's view is that each player has the right to decide whether or not to join in with the anthem.

The pre-game to the opening clash of State of Origin 2020 came before a sold-out 26,500-strong crowd - a size limited by coronavirus protocols to half the capacity of Adelaide Oval.

Tickets for Adelaide's first Origin match sold out late on Tuesday though the showpiece event is not packing the economic punch initially hoped for by South Australia's government.

The SA government is understood to have forked out $5 million for the series-opener which was originally scheduled for June 3.

The state had hoped for an influx of 10,000 rugby league visitors but the series was postponed amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Estimates put visitor numbers at around 1000, with SA's borders open to Queensland and all of NSW except for six Sydney local government areas.