BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: The Indigenous All Stars team embrace for the national anthem before the NRL match between the Indigenous All-Stars and the World All-Stars at Suncorp Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Harvey Norman NRL All Stars double-header returns to Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast this Saturday night with the women’s and men’s Indigenous All Stars taking on the Maori All Stars.

In what is supposed to be a celebration of Indigenous and Maori players, their culture and their contributions to the game of rugby league, the marquee exhibition match has been subject to heated debate on social media after the ARL Commission decided to scrap the singing of the Australian national anthem after several key Indigenous players expressed concerns that the words of the anthem do not represent them or their families and does not include and acknowledgement of First Nations people.

The national anthem debate has polarised rugby league fans, after a number of players refused to sing the anthem before last years All Stars clash, with the issue again highlighted before the State of Origin series when key players such as Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker deciding to stand silently when the anthem was played.

We live in a time when high-profile sports and sporting athletes will use their platform to speak openly with fans to express their values, talk about their political beliefs and try to make a difference in the world.

Some fans might think they should keep their opinions to themselves and stick to playing sport while others believe it’s an opportunity to generate discussion about the many challenges and issues we face as a community. Either way, sporting events like the NRL All Stars is what should bring us together, not create divisiveness.

For the sake of the game, let’s focus on what the concept is all about and the star-studded line-ups who will take the field this Saturday night in what is certain to be two entertaining games.

Watch as the players perform their traditional War Cry and Haka before the game. Marvel at the skills of Latrell Mitchell and Kalyn Ponga. Don’t blink when speedsters Josh Addo-Carr and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak are in full flight. Feast on the battle up-front as David Fifita takes on Jesse Bromwich.

And for the women, we have internationals Tallisha Harden and Shakiah Tungai who will lead the Indigenous while Krystal Rota and Raecene McGregor will line-up for the Maori.

There’s nothing wrong with the All Stars event being used to raise concerns with the national anthem and should be part of a national conversation, but let’s not allow differences of opinions on the subject spoil what will be two great games of rugby league.

In a show of Unity, the Maori All Stars will not sing their national anthem – which includes both Maori and English lyrics – before the game as well.

For the players, representing their culture and heritage means so much to them and as we’ve seen over the past decade, there are very few games on the rugby league calendar that’s played with such passion and enthusiasm as the All Stars clash.

The All Stars concept was created in 2010 with the Indigenous All Stars defeating then opponents the NRL All Stars 16-10 on the Gold Coast. The match was glittered with many of the game’s best players – including Preston Campbell and Johnathan Thurston for the Indigenous All Stars, while the NRL All Stars boasted the likes Darren Lockyer and Cameron Smith.

In 2019, the concept was revamped to include the New Zealand Maori. Last year’s All Stars fixtures saw the men’s Indigenous side get up over the Maori 34-14 while the Maori women’s team got the win over the Indigenous 8-4 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

29 COMMENTS

  1. If the National Anthem is banned, then I presume the Smoking Ceremony and Haka are also banned. Then I will be able to celebrate the game and the game only. Is that what the author was trying to tell us ?

  2. If they cannot respect the National Anthem then why should we respect their game or their culture ?

    I am Australian and proud of it and everything it stands for. I am not proud of a minority group that think they have more rights than any other Australians. I shall be boycotting this game in protest.

  3. LidcombeOval February 18, 2020 at 10:30 am
    “And the award for the least watched game of the year goes to………”

    Thats easy. The World Club Challenge.
    A ratings flop every year since 2014.

  4. As a passing thought,

    Imagine a WCC game in the not too distant future featuring (say) the Roosters v Toronto.

    I know the new boys aren’t traveling too well at the moment (to be expected really) but a couple of years down the track – could be a distinct possibility.

  5. Why should the national anthem be played?
    Neither team are representing their country.
    The national anthem I believe should only be played when you are representing your country and wearing an Australian Guernsey.
    This is Indigenous All Stars. Let them have their day.
    The national anthem is over played SoS and Grand Final.
    The only game I would support the national anthem being played is the ANZAC round, out of respect to those that fought for us and those that never returned.

  6. Should be a good game with some of the best in the league playing. If all the sooks on this site want to hear someone sing may I suggest going to the opera. I watch the game for the game, not to hear professional athletes sing

  7. I dont want to hear the national anthem at the footy,
    I dont want to see a smoking ceremony
    I dont want to be forced to publicly pay our respects to historical land owners..
    I no longer care for any of it.
    I just want to watch the footy

  8. If we’re going to play games based on race then why not include teams of players from Polynesian , Micronesian , European and Middle eastern descent ? All of which are included in the NRL.
    Imagine the European team …Tedesco , Turbo brothers , Munster , Smith , DCE , Cordner , Klemmer

  9. I for one am very interested in the WCC
    A win would cap off another amazing achievement

    3 Premierships in 6 years
    Back to back premiers
    some great bling there!!

  10. It seems to me that we Australians don’t like, aren’t interested, don’t rate and rubbish any game that is not NRL or Origin.

    What a really sad bunch we are!

  11. Rucky February 18, 2020 at 1:16 pm
    It seems to me that we Australians don’t like, aren’t interested, don’t rate and rubbish any game that is not NRL or Origin.

    What we are really excited about is Grand finals
    And the Roosters are the back to back champions!! that has excited me for 2 years straight.

    Im excited when i see a back to back sticker on a fellow supporters car
    Im excited for what the future holds for this great group
    Im excited to wear our colours
    im excited to see how we do in the WCC

    I am NOT excited by the all starts debarcle

  12. The indigenous all stars have turned this event into a travesty. They have brought the commendation upon themselves, with this siege mentality. Their overt disregard for the nation anthem is wrong.

  13. Panthers, I have no dramas with the indigenous not liking the anthem and choosing not to sing it, as it is a choice after all. What I do have a problem with is using a sporting event to make a big song and dance about it (excuse the poor pun). If people want to have a serious discussion on the matter that is great, but leave it off the sporting field.

    I don’t think they have turned it into a travesty either. Read this article on The Roar https://www.theroar.com.au/2020/02/18/the-importance-of-the-indigenous-all-stars/
    It gives great insight into the importance of the match from an indigenous point of view.

  14. Hi eels47 well said.
    Your posts indicate you are a true league supporter.
    Hope your eels do well this year
    Cheers.

  15. I agree, eels47, there would be uproar if the indigenous people were not allowed to have their smoking, or welcoming to the country ceremonies. All I’m saying it works both ways.

    Sidney, I am a true supporter, I am just getting sick to death of the drama.

  16. Eels47 this is an opportunity to say something and hope people listen. The league players are asked questions they answered them honestly. Would you prefer them to just sit there and say ‘ no comment’
    They are trying to set example to our next generation!

  17. Panthers18 my acknowledging eels as a true supporter in my view didn’t exclude you from being one. Just my thoughts on eels’ comment.
    Ignore the drama. It can be like a dripping tap.

  18. toddy, I understand that, but I am against mixing politics and sport. If they want to have a voice in the matter that is great, but don’t use a sporting event to push it. In all honesty, what was achieved from the vocal boycotting of the anthem in origin last year? From what I can see all it did was invite criticism and the debate on forums such as this, which, in the scheme of things, achieved nothing.
    There is a time and a place for everything, I just don’t agree that was the right time or place for this.

  19. Cheers Sidney. There are still a few on this site that are here to have discussions about footy, with a bit of fun thrown in, unfortunately we don’t post as often as we used to though.

    There are also a few who constantly post the same dribble, offering nothing to the site. Best bet is to scroll through the garbage.

  20. Would any of these players enjoy the freedoms and salaries that sport brings if it was not for the flag and anthem?

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