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Mal Meninga says he will NOT drop stars if they refuse to sing the national anthem… but admits criticism of his Kangaroos stars is ‘fair’ after they stayed silent before Samoa game

Mal Meninga has defended his Kangaroos stars after a number of players were criticised for not signing the national anthem last weekend.

Former Kangaroos captain Max Krilich stated ‘if you don’t want to sing the anthem, don’t play for the Kangaroos’ after Payne Haas, Kotoni Stagg, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Selwyn Cobbo were seen not singing the national anthem before Saturday’s Pacific Championship Test against Samoa in Townsville.

Ken Arthurson, chair of the ARL, added that players need to ‘pay that respect’ and singing the anthem is ‘an absolute must.’

Both called on Meninga to make singing the anthem a non-negotiable when representing Australia, but the Kangaroos coach has insisted the decision comes down to ‘personal preference’.

‘I don’t say anything (to the players), I think it’s personal preference,’ Meninga told Triple M.

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‘They’ve grown up with certain values, certainly with their families and those values have got to be respected.

‘I think it’s up to the individual. I personally sing the national anthem because I’m a proud Australian.

‘There’s no doubt that they’re not less passionate Australians, they’re not less passionate people that want to put the green and gold jersey on… they’ve just got a value set that’s different and I think that needs to be recognised and acknowledged.’

Meninga added that Krilich and Arthurson have ‘freedom to have an opinion’ but stressed that his players ‘also have the freedom to make a decision too’.

He admitted, however, that the criticism was not unfair. 

‘Everyone has an opinion. They are public figures and everyone has assumptions without even knowing the situation, and that can be very difficult.’ 

He declared that he will not force his players to change their stance, though.

‘No, and there won’t be (pressure) either. I shouldn’t have any input or (offer) any persuasion on this matter,’ Meninga said. 

The Kangaroos’ silence paled in comparison to players of other nations, with Samoan rookie Connelly Lemuelu seen in tears during their national anthem. Cowboys forward Luciano Leilua also visibly struggled to contain his emotions. 

‘Brilliant, absolutely brilliant,’ Andrew Voss said in commentary.

‘It’s an amazing exhibition of the emotion, you saw the tears from Lemuelu and Leilua, and then how quickly then gets to that and the players are now wound up.

‘It is a war cry which talks about fighting to the finish and working hard and that’s what they’ll have to do tonight.’

Many footy fans watching the game were also irritated by the Kangaroos not singing the anthem.

‘If they don’t respect Australia and our national anthem, they don’t belong in the team it’s an Australian team,’ wrote one X user.

‘Aren’t they playing for Australia? If they can’t do that then they shouldn’t be on the team,’ agreed another.

‘They should not be wearing that jumper or representing our country in any way if they are refusing to do it. Drop em all,’ said a third.

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