- Thurston defends stars who refuse to sing
- Says they have a choice to sing or not
- Compares the choice with the recent referendum
Former NRL star Jonathan Thurston has defended players who choose not to sing the national anthem after several rugby league stars remained silent ahead of their match on Saturday.
Footy legend Max Krilich called for players to be dropped from the Kangaroos if they do not want to sing Advance Australia Fair before matches, with a number of fans echoing the sentiments on Twitter.
However, Australian coach Mal Meninga defended Payne Haas, Selwyn Cobba, Kotoni Stagg and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, insisting the players have the freedom to choose to sing or not – and Thurston has backed him.
The Australian Rugby League Commission made a decision to ditch the anthem before the Indigenous All Stars match on the Gold Coast in 2020, after consultation with Indigenous players, and Thurston believes the anthem shouldn’t be an issue now either.
“I know the Indigenous All Stars didn’t sing the national anthem and didn’t want the national anthem played in those games at the start of the year, and that was a decision they made as a collective group,” he said.
Jonathan Thurston has defended football players who choose not to sing the national anthem
Several rugby league stars have remained quiet ahead of their match against Samoa on Saturday
‘I don’t know exactly which players did not sing the national anthem this time, but that is their belief and their personal decision.
‘Just as the nation voted on the referendum, they can do their thing too.
“Even though you may not like it, that’s their decision.”
Images of the players not singing angered former ARL chairman Ken Arthurson, who said the players needed to show more “respect”, while media figure Peter Peters said: “I’m tired of seeing players zipping their mouths shut while anthem.’
The Kangaroos’ silence pales in comparison to players from other countries, with Samoan rookie Connelly Lemuelu seen in tears during their national anthem. Cowboys forward Luciano Leilua also visibly struggled to keep his emotions in check.
Reacting to Saturday’s incident, some Australians expressed disappointment that the players did not sing and agreed with Krilich’s position.
One commenter said: ‘Max is 100% right. If you don’t want to sing the Australian national anthem, you don’t play for Australia.’
“Definitely one of the most shameful acts,” someone else wrote. “If you take money to play for Australia you have to respect that and be a team player. Otherwise you leave the game. There are probably better players who want your spot, so get out!’
Thurston says players have every right not to sing Advance Australia Fair if they want to
Some Samoan players were in tears as they sang their national anthem on Saturday
One fan suggested a radical solution: “Make them sign a document declaring their alliance with Australia and their willingness to sing our national anthem, otherwise they won’t be able to play.”
“Anyone who does not support Australia and our flag in any sport should not play on our Australian team,” read a fourth comment. “They should play on another team.”