In both his rugby league and boxing careers Anthony Mundine has made some very bizarre statements, but his latest not only takes the cake, it is likely to further erode whatever support he has left among rugby league fans, players and officials.
Mundine had a reasonable rugby league career, representing the Dragons and the Broncos, before giving the game away to concentrate on boxing.
His statement yesterday that NSW is a racist rugby league state, and that he is encouraging young Aboriginal footballers to move to Queensland, came on the same day as his next “title” fight was announced. And it is to be held on Queensland’s Gold Coast!
Thirteen aboriginal players — including Mundine — have represented NSW in State of Origin football, and the number of Aboriginal players in New South Wales NRL clubs has probably never been higher than it is today. And if the “racist” label includes players from Pacific Island countries then it is even more bizarre and unsupportable.
And what makes Mundine’s outburst even more embarrassing is that his nephew, Matthew, has captained the NSW under-16s team for the last two years!
The ARL has an NSW-based indigenous development manager, Ricky Walford, who played with Mundine at the Dragons, and he has disowned the latest outburst.
The timing of the comments will also raise suspicions about Mundine’s role in last week’s claim by the South Rabbitohs winger, Nathan Merritt, that he had been denied selection in the City-Country trial game because of his Aboriginal heritage.
That comment was universally condemned and sits uncomfortably with the commendable, and increasingly successful, efforts being made by the South Rabbitohs owners, Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court, to encourage indigenous players in the club and develop beneficial links with local indigenous communities.
If Mundine’s latest comment was a cheap stunt to promote his Gold Coast fight next month, then it will surely backfire. Mundine’s stint with the Broncos was a short one, with limited success. And having played for the NSW Blues in State of Origin, his sudden “promotion” of Queensland rugby league won’t make any difference in numbers at his Gold Coast fight.
Rugby league officialdom has been remarkably tolerant of Mundine’s erratic and exaggerated claims over the years. But his latest claim is testing that tolerance to the limit.