HAS the national anthem finally been dumped from the big speakers at Newcastle Knights' home games?
Seven years ago, I wrote in this column that the blurting of the national anthem just before kick-off at Turton Road was a communal torture inflicted upon fans who, despite the building medical evidence concerning concussion and long-term brain injury, still like watching people willingly collide at speed.
Footy fans who shell out a big pineapple and most of a redback for a decent seat not exposed to a retina-scorching western sun, a blue swimmer for mid-strength beer (you get change), and whatever it costs for unimaginative vittles self-served from a multiplex of bain-maries, should not have to also endure the national anthem before a regular game. According to a spokesman at NRL headquarters back in 2014, only the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights played the national anthem before every NRL home fixture.
"We don't have a policy on when the anthem should or shouldn't be played, we just leave it up to clubs," said the spokesman.
Hopefully the anthem will only blurt at Turton Rd on days of national significance and not at bog-standard footy games
He also told me that in the case of the North Queensland Cowboys, the national anthem was played before every game because the club recognised Townsville hosts a significant army base.
He didn't seem to know about RAAF Base Williamtown and its approximate workforce of 4500 direct employees.
But in the case of the Newcastle Knights, the NRL spokesman was unsure as to why the club played the anthem before every game and suggested I ask the club.
A club spokesman responded to that inquiry by advising it was "tradition". Ah, tradition. Tradition provides rugby league with a narrative spine. Serving full-strength beer to those outside corporate boxes was also once a tradition, but that lost the endorsement of administrators alongside other rugby league traditions such as the scream of "cattle-dog" and an all-in-brawl.
At the first two home games at Turton Road this year, the national anthem was not played just before kick-off. This column was filed before Sunday's Voice for Mining Family Day match against the St George Illawarra Dragons, so I can't be certain as yet whether the dropping of the national anthem in the first two rounds was an error - someone forgot to bring the dirge to the ground - or a "brand new" tradition.
The Voice for Mining Family Day is now a tradition at Turton Road.
The day is one of the key tools in the massive PR arsenal belonging to the NSW Minerals Council. Yay for Family Day. Anyone opposed to something as beautiful as Mining Family Day would probably also take pleasure in kicking a puppy.
I wonder if the "casual" coal miners engaged by labour hire companies and sold down the river by One Nation's Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson were at the ground in hi-vis marketing outfits and cheering the Voice for Family Mining Day.
I wonder if that betrayal was discussed by the suits and pearls backslapping in the corporate suite.
Sure, mining in this region has made significant contributions to the regional, state and national economy. But there's also a massive cost to the environment.
I can't imagine a Voice for Environment Family Day celebrating the contribution of the natural environment to the regional, state and national economies. But what would have happened if a player didn't want to wear the mining advocacy kit on Sunday?
Would the NRL allow a player to become a conscientious objector to coal spruiking. like they allowed Sonny Bill Williams who refused to display the logo of gambling firms, alcohol companies and banks? All power to Sonny Bill for backing his beliefs.
The NRL has been already been fully captured by a gambling industry that has feverishly filled the sponsorship holes left by grog and lung darts. The Knights are owned by Wests, whose empire is largely built upon poker machines. Has anyone else noticed the similarities that the Wests Group share with the continent Westeros and its seven kingdoms as portrayed in Game of Thrones? No? Allow me to assist.
Wests also has seven kingdoms - New Lambton, Mayfield, Cardiff, Nelson Bay, City, New Lambton Bowlo and NEX. Coincidence? I think not. Winter (sport) is coming.
Mining and gambling together, forever, celebrating families and rugby league.
But hopefully the national anthem will only blurt at Turton Road on days of national significance and not at bog-standard footy games, no matter the size of the PR machine romanticising the match-day sponsor.