Anthony Mundine has defended a former NSW Blues star who claimed the national anthem debate played a role in two Indigenous players being dumped from the next State of Origin game.
In an exclusive column for NITV News, Timana Tahu spoke about the changes to the NSW side for game two of the series and focused on the decision to sideline Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker.
In the widely recirculated comments, he argued that “part of the reason they got the chop” was their decision not to sing the anthem before the opening match.
“Even though there are selectors, the politics come into it and I feel like some old boys might have come in and shared their two cents with the coach,” Tahu wrote.
“We are a country where a lot of people have come from overseas and made this place home. It’s something that the boys involved had a strong feeling about it.
“Did it cost some of them their positions in the team? I think yes and no.”
Tahu commented that he felt like he was "black-listed” after walking out on NSW's State of Origin side in 2010.
“That was a traumatic moment for me and my family," he said.
‘Paying the cost’
Mundine, who previously described the national anthem as a “theme song for the White Australia policy”, believes Indigenous sports figures often pay a price for taking a political stance.
“I just really feel, that if blackfellas can’t say what they want to say or can’t feel free to say what they want, because there’s always going to be a backlash, there’s always going to be somebody sacking them or taking their power away,” he told NITV News.
“I truly believe that Latrell and Cody, especially took the brunt for what they stood for. You’ve got Latrell, arguably one of the best players in the game, and you’ve got Cody who I thought didn’t have a bad game at all ... I think they’re paying the cost of standing up for the truth.”
“The fellas who are running the game, they don’t understand [things] from an Indigenous point of view.”
News Corp Australia also reported that at a training session this week NSW players were gagged from talking to the media about Tahu’s comments.
Last month, Tahu was invited to take up an unpaid mentoring role with NSW Rugby League to develop the next generation of Blues players.
There has been speculation in the media that his recent remarks may have jeopardised that position. However, NITV understands that Tahu is about to start another coaching role with the NRL who remain open to working with him.
NSW Rugby League chief executive David Trodden described Tahu’s comments as “seriously misguided” and on a “completely different page” to the entire sporting organisation.
“If he seriously thinks that an honourable person like Freddy [coach Brad Fittler] or anybody else in the NSW Rugby League would have paid any attention to the anthem issue in selecting the team, then he should be seriously embarrassed that he thinks that way,” he told The Australian.
“That’s a pretty appalling comment to make.”
Mitchell and Walker were dropped but Trodden pointed out that two Indigenous players - Blake Ferguson and Wade Graham – were included in the new line-up for the Blues along with other players who boycotted the anthem, such as Josh Addo-Carr.
“They weren’t the only two that didn’t sing the national anthem,” he said.