NRL Backflips on Singing National Anthem at State of Origin

NRL Backflips on Singing National Anthem at State of Origin
Tom Trbojevic and Greg Inglis pose with AMPOL CEO Matt Halliday, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and the state of origin trophy during a State of Origin media opportunity at Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia on Oct. 27, 2020. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The National Rugby League (NRL) has backflipped on its decision to scrap the national anthem at Wednesday’s State of Origin opener after an intervention from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Barely two hours after the decision was made public to axe the anthem from the pre-match ceremony, Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys has bowed to a backlash and reinstated it.

It’s understood Morrison intervened by contacting V'landys and pleading the case for strong national unity after a year of hardship.

“This is a welcome decision by the NRL,” the prime minister said on Thursday.

“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.”

The about-face follows an ARLC meeting on Wednesday night with representatives from New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) and the Queensland Rugby League (QRL), where the decision was made to scrap the anthem.

Last year’s series was dominated by the issue when Indigenous Blues trio Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr spoke out before the game about their refusal to sing.

The anthem was also scrapped at the annual All Stars match earlier this year.

However, V'landys said the strong backlash forced his decision to reinstate the anthem for Wednesday’s series opener in Adelaide.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

By Pamela Whaley and Murray Wenzel