• Joe Williams says there's "no way in the world" he'd pressure Thurston into refusing to stand for the anthem. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Former NRL star Joe Williams has accused Fox Sports of using 'divide and conquer' tactics after the website claimed he had urged Australian of the Year nominee Johnathan Thurston not to stand for the national anthem.
Ella Archibald-Binge

23 Jan 2018 - 1:24 PM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2018 - 3:38 PM

The original article claimed Williams had encouraged the North Queensland Cowboys legend to remain seated during the anthem if he won Australian of the Year at a ceremony in Canberra on Thursday. 

Williams has since described the report as "complete and utter rubbish". 

"I don’t pressure Johnathan, not one bit, in doing what I do, because that’s what I do," said Williams, who made headlines two years ago for refusing to stand for the anthem when he was awarded Wagga Wagga Citizen of the Year at an Australia Day ceremony.

Joe Williams: Why I decided to make a stand, or sit
Joe Williams, the 2016 Wagga Citizen of the Year, on his decision to remain seated during the singing of the national anthem on Australia Day.

"Johnathan, if he wins the award, has every right to do exactly what he wants to do. It’s got nothing to do with my opinion on what I say or what anyone else should do, because opinions are individual and everyone should respect them.

"Johnno does magnificent stuff for our people – there’s no way in the world I’m going to pressure him into doing anything that he may not want to do." 

Williams told NITV News the story was based on a "passing comment" during a 40-minute interview focussed on his new book on suicide prevention, Defying The Enemy Within. 

'It’s conquer and divide – let’s turn these darkies against each other. It’s been happening for 200 years.'

"[The journalist] said 'Joe what would you like to see happen if Johnathan Thurston wins the Australia Day award?' My words, I said 'I’d love to see him stay seated for the anthem' – moved on, that was the last time we spoke about it in a conversation that lasted 40 minutes," said the mental health advocate. 

"It’s disappointing because it was drawing Aboriginal people against Aboriginal people, and it’s not what I’m about at all.

"It’s conquer and divide – let’s turn these darkies against each other. It’s been happening for 200 years."

Williams said he has made several attempts to contact Johnathan Thurston's management to clarify his comments. 

Thurston was named Queensland's Australian of the Year in November in recognition of his off-field work promoting Indigenous health and education. He's one of three Indigenous nominees in the running for Australian of the Year, alongside WA psychologist Dr Tracy Westerman and Canberra entrepreneur Dion Devow. 

The North Queensland Cowboys declined NITV News' request for a comment from Thurston. 

Fox Sports has been approached for comment.

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