• Mitchell and fellow Indigenous players have attracted headlines over the past year for refusing to sing the anthem. (Foxsports)Source: Foxsports
The Indigenous All Stars fullback says the decision to scrap the Australian national anthem from Friday night's pre-match festivities "means a lot" to the players.
By
Jodan Perry

Source:
NITV News
17 Feb 2020 - 4:37 PM  UPDATED 17 Feb 2020 - 4:39 PM

Earlier this month, the Australian Rugby League Commission chose to axe the national anthem from the NRL All Stars clash after meeting with the game's leading Indigenous players.

The decision has been praised by All Stars fullback Latrell Mitchell, who said it "means a lot" that the governing body took the time to listen to the players

"It's a step in the right direction, obviously the commissioner of the NRL had a meeting with us and he took the first step for us, and we can't thank him enough, and I think for us to get this it really means a lot," he said.

"It's really good to see the NRL getting behind us and putting the front foot forward and letting us have our voice."

Mitchell and fellow Indigenous players have attracted headlines over the past year for speaking out about the anthem, which does not include any reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A number of players boycotted singing the song during the 2019 State of Origin series.

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Last year, All Stars captain Cody Walker said he felt uncomfortable singing the song as "it doesn't represent myself or my family."

Mitchell echoed those thoughts while speaking today on the Gold Coast.

"It just doesn't represent us as one ... it doesn't involved us in Australia with non-Indigenous. That's where I think it just comes to an end, where we've had enough and the boys have had a good yarn to each other and this is what we're going to stand by," he said.

"At the end of the day we live in a country where people come in and be welcomed, and we've been here first and we are still not welcomed."

Mitchell was also the subject of racist abuse throughout last year on social media, and continually named and shamed racist trolls on his accounts.

The Rabbitohs star says he will continue to speak up for himself and his people,

"I'll stand proud, that's who I am, and I'm not going to change for no one." he said.

"At the end of the day we live in a country where people come in and be welcomed, and we've been here first and we are still not welcomed."

PASSION AND PRIDE

While there will be no rendition of 'Advance Australia Fair' before Friday night's match against New Zealand Maori, there will be the traditional War Cry and Haka.

Centre James Roberts says it's a moment of special significance for the players.

"It gives you goosebumps, I remember last year when Latrell got in the middle, for the first time he did it and I looked at his legs and he had goosebumps and it gave me goosebumps," he said. 

"Its one of the special jerseys that I have put on in my lifetime and it's a special moment, a special week."

Forward Wade Graham missed last year's 34-14 win in Melbourne due to injury, but says he is ecstatic to be back.

"It's two proud cultures, steeped in history, and we get to celebrate .. a game like this helps to provide a bit of insight and a reason to show our culture ... and it's wonderful to be a part of it." he said. 

A series of events to celebrate Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori culture will be held throughout the week in the lead-up to the match.

-Jodan Perry is the host of NITV's flagship Rugby League program 'Over The Black Dot' which returns to screens Tuesday March 17 at 8.30pm.

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