Rugby league great Johnathan Thurston says players have every right to not sing the national anthem after former Test captain Max Krilich called for Kangaroos stars to be overlooked if they don’t sing the anthem.
The national anthem has been an issue for some Indigenous players in the past, with a number of them choosing not to sing Advance Australia Fair before representative matches.
Other players have described being too emotional or fixated on the task ahead to sing the anthem, with the issue back in the headlines over the weekend after several Australian players, including Kotoni Staggs, Payne Haas and Selwyn Cobbo, were silent before the game against Samoa.
Krilich was clearly offended, saying: “If you don’t to want sing the anthem then don’t play for the Kangaroos. It embarrasses me when they stand there staring like stunned mullets during the national anthem.”
The Australian Rugby League Commission decided back in 2020 to not play the national anthem before the All Stars game on the Gold Coast after speaking with Indigenous players, and Thurston doesn’t think it should be an issue now, especially after what happened with the referendum result on Saturday.
“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.
“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.”
Speaking at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame event in Sydney on Monday, Thurston praised the Kangaroos following their win over Samoa to open the Pacific Championships but conceded they’d need to be a lot better when they face New Zealand in Melbourne later this month.
The Aussies flew out of the blocks with four tries in the opening 15 minutes on the back of some huge carries from starting props Haas and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who both crashed over as the Kangaroos threatened to put on a cricket score.
But things slowed down after that, with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scoring either side of halftime before Staggs capped off a strong debut with a try in the final minute.
Thurston liked what he saw and was confident things would only improve on the back of more training sessions, but he wanted to see a bit more from the spine against a hungry New Zealand outfit that has the talent to upset Australia.
“They’ll certainly need to go to another level against the Kiwis because they nearly got us at the World Cup last year and will be looking to avenge that,” he said.
“The spine just needs to combine a little bit better and play off the go forward they got from Payne and Tino who were enormous.
“I thought it was a really strong performance by the boys through the middle which created some space for the spine to do their thing.
“It was dominant in the end, but they’ll be looking to build on that.
“The Kangaroos are in safe hands with the next generation coming through.”