Australian hockey, AFL’s Kangaroos call for date change

Scott Bailey |

Steve Smith (l) and Pat Cummins (r) are both in favour of a change in date for Australia Day.
Steve Smith (l) and Pat Cummins (r) are both in favour of a change in date for Australia Day.

The NRL and Football Australia have joined Cricket Australia’s stance on January 26, with the country’s hockey teams and several AFL clubs also pushing for an immediate change to the national day date.

Under fire from some sectors this week for not using “Australia Day” in marketing around the Gabba Test, Cricket Australia found several allies on Friday.

In a post to social media, the NRL said it “acknowledges today represents a painful and sorrowful day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

“Today, we pay tribute to the resilience and the enormous contribution our Aboriginal and Torres Strait brothers and sisters make to our nation and the greatest game of all,” the post continued.

Notably, the social media statement made no reference at all to “Australia Day”.

Tennis Australia will also skip celebrations at the Australian Open on Friday, while Football Australia took a similar stance on social media.

“We acknowledge that today has different meanings to our diverse nation,” a post from the organisation read.

“We will always continue to respect, represent and celebrate all the cultures, communities and people that make our country and sport so great.”

The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos then went one step further, calling for a change of date away from January 26 in a year where both loom as gold medal hopes in Paris.

“We are all proud to be Australians, however we do not see January 26 as a day of celebration,” the sides said in a joint statement supported by Hockey Australia.

“Today, the current Hockeyroo and Kookaburra athletes support our sisters Mariah Williams, a proud Wiradjuri woman, and Brooke Peris, a proud Yawuru woman, and stand in solidarity with all First Nations people.

“Be mindful and have empathy. We can celebrate what it means to be Australian on another day.”

AFL club North Melbourne also called for a change to the date, following the footsteps of Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs on Thursday.

“We encourage listening, understanding and reflection of our Nation’s shared past,” the Kangaroos said in a statement on Friday.

“We will be stronger together when we can celebrate the history of the country we call home, on a date that unites us.”

Several NRL and AFL clubs were among other clubs to acknowledge January 26 as a painful day for Australia’s Indigenous people.

As of 10am, no major Australian sporting codes had referenced “Australia Day” in any posts, nor had any AFL or NRL clubs.

Cricket Australia first dropped the term from their marketing in 2021, when some BBL clubs began wearing Indigenous strips while playing on the day.

The decision was met with opposition from then Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who claimed Cricket Australia should have “a bit more focus on cricket and a little less focus on politics”.

But the position has largely been backed by cricket’s playing group, headlined by Pat Cummins and Steve Smith calling for the date to be changed this week.

AAP