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Anthony Mundine called out over bizarre explanation for quitting NRL in 2000

The former Dragons and Broncos half walked out on rugby league to take up a career in boxing.

Anthony Mundine.
Anthony Mundine quit the NRL and moved to boxing in 2000. Image: Getty

Anthony Mundine has made more explosive claims about why he quit the NRL in 2000, saying he was overlooked for national selection because of his race. The former rugby league star and boxer is taking part in Channel 7 reality show 'SAS Australia', and was interviewed by the directing staff on Wednesday night's episode.

When asked to tell his 'story', Mundine highlighted his experience with racism in Australia. However he made a number of bizarre and inaccurate claims about why he decided to quit the NRL and make a switch to boxing.

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The former Dragons and Broncos half played in the 1999 grand final with St George Illawarra, which the Storm won 20-18 on a controversial penalty try in the dying stages. Mundine had a brilliant finals series that year, famously scoring a hat-trick in the preliminary final win over Cronulla.

However he had a horror moment in the grand final that proved incredibly costly. With the Dragons up 14-0, Mundine butchered a try when he opted to dummy and go himself despite having two players unmarked on his outside. The Storm then came back and won at the death.

Anthony Mundine, pictured here playing State of Origin for NSW in 1999.
Anthony Mundine played State of Origin for NSW in 1999. (Photo by Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Despite being picked on the bench for NSW in State of Origin that year, Mundine was overlooked for the Kangaroos at the end of the season. He then walked out on the Dragons halfway through the 2000 season to make an immediate switch to boxing.

Speaking on SAS Australia on Wednesday night, Mundine said: “I debuted in '93. I was 18 years old. I was only a skinny kid. And I was carving up but I felt like I wasn’t getting the accolades. If I was a white fella, I would have got ...”

SAS instructor Ant Middleton then interjected: “Oh, you believe it came down to race?” Mundine replied: “100 per cent...I knew from a young age I wanted to play for Australia, that was my goal. (1999) was probably one of my best years. But at the end of that year they were taking a tour to England. I don’t know if it was the World Cup but they were taking a tour.

“They picked 42 men to go on this tour. I was the best player in the league, no doubt ... Stats showed that. 100 per cent they showed that. No one close to me in my position.”

Anthony Mundine, Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler.
Anthony Mundine (L) had all-time greats like Andrew Johns (centre) and Brad Fittler (R) to contend with. Image: Getty

Middleton asked: “So you obviously got picked for the team?” Mundine replied: “No. I didn’t get picked for the team. The Australian coach said I didn’t get picked (because of) my off-field characteristics. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I never took drugs in my life, but I’m very outspoken.

"They just wanted to show me that they were in power. So they didn’t pick me ... They crushed me. Crushed me. Devastated me. Ripped my heart out, basically."

Anthony Mundine's claims called out on social media

While it does ring true that Mundine wasn't picked for Australia at the end of the 1999 season, fans took to social media to point out a number of inaccuracies with his story. There was no such tour of England in 1999, and there certainly wasn't a 42-man squad.

There was a tri-nations tournament against England and New Zealand at the end of 1999, but it took place in Australia. The Rugby League World Cup took place in England in 2000, but Mundine had already quit by then.

Others also pointed out that Mundine had some of the best players of his generation in the same positions that he played (halfback and five-eighth), namely Andrew Johns, Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer, Kevin Walters and Laurie Daley. His claims that he was overlooked because of his race also don't appear to ring true considering the dozens and dozens of Indigenous players who have represented Australia over the years.

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