Daly Cherry-Evans wants the national anthem to be played before State of Origin Games and he will be singing along.
But out of deep respect to Aboriginal people, especially his Sea Eagles teammate and Indigenous All Stars captain Joel Thompson, the Manly and Queensland captain doesn’t mind if players standing alongside him refuse to sing.
He understands their disagreement with words in Advance Australia Fair.
And he thinks there needs to be a wider public conversation held – not just within the rugby league community – of whether it is the right anthem for Australia.
“I’ve had several conversations with Joel about what Indigenous people want and the actions they want taken, because I do want to know more and understand more,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I’m obviously a proud Australian. But I completely understand the Indigenous game not playing the anthem – that’s actually fine on my behalf.
“But I actively want to support the anthem for a State of Origin game. In that particular game we are actually representing Queensland and NSW, which are two big parts of our nation.
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“I’d love the opportunity to still sing the anthem before an Origin game. I have pride in it. But I am OK if teammates or opposition players didn’t sing it. That is completely up to them.
“I’m definitely for people standing up for what they believe in. As Australians – Indigenous or not – we all have a story to tell.”
Cherry-Evans grew up in Mackay with many Aboriginal friends, including close mate Ben Barba and his family. He is very aware of the plight of Indigenous Australians.
So much so that he also believes there needs to be more debate within society as a whole of whether Advance Australia Fair “is the right anthem”.
“That’s the wider issue and as a proud Australian I am also 100% behind opening that conversation up to a broader level than just sport.
“I know everyone won’t be happy but if there are things as a country that will bring people together and make them happier then I can’t see why we don’t open ourselves up for that.”
The incumbent Kangaroos halfback’s sentiments are similar to the man who previously held the Test No.7 jersey, Cooper Cronk.
Cronk told The Australian on Tuesday that the anthem meant a lot to a large section of the country. But he said there should be a working group from both sides of the anthem debate to flush out a solution.
Test coach Mal Meninga doesn’t want the national anthem to be played at Origin games but is more than happy for it to be sung ahead of the grand final and any international games.
He penned a column for NRL.com last year saying he wanted a referendum on it as it was a national vote that decided the anthem in the 1980s but the country had changed a lot since then.
“While the indigenous population has been talking about Advance Australia Fair for a long time, I cannot see why there can’t be debate about it again now,” Meninga wrote.
“I can’t see any reason why we can’t ask all of Australia once again what is a true and contemporary song for Australia now. Let’s have a referendum.”
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