The NRL has sensationally backflipped on its decision to scrap the national anthem for State of Origin after an intervention from Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.
Barely two hours after the decision was made to can the anthem from the pre-match ceremony, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys bowed to backlash and re-instated it.
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It is understood Morrison intervened by contacting V'landys and pleading the case for strong national unity after a year of hardship.
“Our decision not to play the anthem was never about politics. We have always been committed to the anthem as shown at the grand final last weekend,” V’landys said.
“The original decision not to play the anthem at Origin was about the rivalry and tribalism associated with the Origin series.
“However, having listened to the public response and given the strong national unity in fighting the COVID pandemic together, the commission has decided it is important to ensure that unity continues.
“We have always been a commission that listens to our fans. We have heard the message and acted accordingly.”
Mr Morrison said he supported the NRL’s decision to reinstate the anthem.
“This is a welcome decision by the NRL,” the PM said.
“The NRL have done the right thing by listening to their fans and acting quickly to overturn their choice not to play the national anthem at the Origin Series.
“We have all faced a year of struggle and heartbreak and it has never been more important to be coming together to celebrate Australia and to be able to sing together our national anthem at the game so many of us love.”
Fans divided over State of Origin call
Last year’s series was dominated by controversy around the anthem when NSW trio Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr spoke out before the game about their refusal to sing.
A number of Queensland players, including Will Chambers and Dane Gagai, also refused to sing.
Earlier this year the ARL Commission took on the feedback of Indigenous players and scrapped the national anthem at the annual All Stars match.
Fans reacted to the initial decision to scrap the anthem with shock and anger, however there were many who supported it.
Scrapping the national anthem is one of those things that most people will quietly agree with because nobody really wants to hear it anyway https://t.co/7wAbhm2tP2
— The Wiwa Project (@lukewiwa) October 29, 2020
— Russell Egan (@RussellEgan) October 29, 2020
— Damian Lorieri (@DLorieri) October 29, 2020
I have never understood why they had it to begin with..
— Polojug (@Polojug1) October 29, 2020
Good, no one sings it anyway, hopefully the game starts 5 minutes earlier too
— buskya (@buskya2) October 29, 2020
Hahahaha unbelievable so out of touch with the average punter
— Steven Georgallis 🇬🇷🇨🇾🇦🇺 (@G7WTsteve) October 29, 2020
The most Australian sporting event of the year, what a disgrace
— dipps (@rompos_stepdad) October 29, 2020
Origin is not Test football, anthem not needed.
— Gavin (@ernieoz) October 29, 2020
National anthem controversy in 2019
Walker spoke about his decision not to sing the national anthem last February.
“It just brings back so many memories of what happened (in the past),” he said.
“We as a group need to come together, as a country ... and make some sort of decision together.”
Walker said staying silent before Origin was nothing more than his personal choice.
“I’m not pushing my views on anyone, it’s just how me and my family have grown up and how I feel,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’ve already voiced my opinion, and I want to reiterate it’s just my opinion.”
Addo-Carr said the anthem doesn’t represent Indigenous Australians.
“The anthem doesn't represent us as Indigenous people ... We have to change it,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We are Australians too. Indigenous people were the first people here, on the land.
“I am a proud Australian man but a proud Indigenous man, too. If it’s not going to stand for my people, why should I sing it?”
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