Johnathan Thurston blasts national anthem drama after Kangaroos win

The rugby league great says it's ultimately the player's decision whether or not to sing the anthem.

Johnathan Thurston during broadcast and the Kangaroos players during the national anthem.
Johnathan Thurston says players have every right to not sing the national anthem. Image: Getty

Johnathan Thurston says the Kangaroos players have every right not to sing the national anthem if they don't want to after veteran broadcaster Peter Peters called them out. The rugby league great says the national anthem is a touchy subject for some Indigenous players and believes them choosing not to sing Advance Australia Fair shouldn't be an issue.

“I know that the Indigenous All Stars didn’t sing the anthem and didn’t want the anthem played in those games at the start of the year, and that was a decision that they made as a collective group,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure which players didn’t sing the anthem this time, but that’s their belief and their personal decision."

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“Just like the nation voted on the referendum, they are allowed to do their thing as well. While you might not like it, that’s their decision.”

Several Australian players, including Kotoni Staggs, Payne Haas and Selwyn Cobbo, stood silent while the national anthem played prior to the game against Samoa, a stark contrast to rivals Samoa who passionately belted out their anthem. Many commentators, including Peters, said there should be repercussions for not singing the anthem.

"They should be paying tribute to the country they're representing," Peters told Yahoo Sport Australia. "I'm sick and tired of seeing players zip their mouths in the national anthem."

He echoed the same sentiment on Sky Radio's Big Sports Breakfast Weekend, calling for Mal Meninga to not select the players who won't sing the anthem. "You've got several Australian players refusing to open their mouth during the national anthem," he said. "Mal Meninga should be strong enough to say 'guys, part of playing for Australia is that you sing the national anthem with pride'."

"If you don't want to sing it, you can't be picked. You wear the jersey, you sing the song. It should be part of playing for Australia. This has gone on too long."

Veteran broadcaster Peter Peters believes it's time for players to be left out of the Australian team should they choose to ignore the anthem. Image: Getty
Veteran broadcaster Peter Peters believes it's time for players to be left out of the Australian team should they choose to ignore the anthem. Image: Getty

Not the first time Aussie players have snubbed the anthem

Rugby league authorities have respected the rights of individuals to decide whether to join in the anthem before Test matches and State of Origins, with several players opting not to mouth the words. South Sydney star and proud Indigenous man Cody Walker refused to sing the anthem before a State of Origin match in 2019 and received strong support from those within the game.

"It just brings back so many memories from what's happened and I think everyone in Australia needs to get together and work something out. It doesn't represent myself and my family," Walker said at the time.

"I'm not pushing my views on anyone, it's just how me and my family have grown up and how I feel. I've already voiced my opinion, and I want to reiterate it's just my opinion."

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