Fans divided over AFL clubs’ Australia Day cancellation as former umpire weighs in: ‘Stick to playing footy’

AFL clubs have again divided their fans by releasing statements about Australia Day.

Every club addressed the issue on their social media accounts in 2022, apart from Geelong, but this year the reigning premiers were the first to push out a statement.

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Geelong said on the eve of Australia Day that they stood “in solidarity with First Nations peoples and we listen deeply and reflect”.

The Cats also said they recognized that January 26 “marks citizenship for new Australians” and they were committed to “moving forward with openness and togetherness for our shared history”.

Jy Farrar and Yugambeh artist Luther Cora during a Sir Doug Nicholls Round media shoot in 2022. Credit: Getty Images

Many applauded Geelong for balance, saying their message was “well constructed”.

Port Adelaide released one of the stronger Australia Day statements, saying they acknowledged January 26 was a day of “immense sadness and sorrow for many within our community”.

While crosstown rival Adelaide said they acknowledged the “pain and suffering” the day caused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

But the topic has divided fans, as it does with many in the community.

Under the Crows’ post, one fan said “can’t we just let sport be sport”, while several others posted patriotic, flag-waving content.

Port Adelaide’s post was also greeted with mixed emotions, with some accusing the club of a “woke narrative”.

Richmond’s message was widely supported, but they were accused of tokenism.

“This message is nice but feels like hollow sentiments without a commitment to support the change the date movement. Given the meaningful contributions that our club has made to support not only our Indigenous players but Indigenous communities, we can do better,” a Tigers fan wrote.

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Richmond said: “This magnificent place, nurtured for more than 60,000 years by the world’s oldest living culture (sic).

“Take the time to question, listen and understand the truth of our past. Share in it, respect it.

“Collectively, our voices can deliver the change that will unite this great country we all call home.”

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An ex-AFL umpire also joined in on the criticism of clubs.

“How about clubs stick to what they are there for … and that’s playing footy,” former umpire Simon Harrison said.

“I have to say there are bigger issues in the Indigenous community at this time other than changing a date,” he said.

Harrison worked in the AFL’s NSW/ACT system and believes clubs should stay away from social issues.

“Footy clubs are not necessarily the best organizations advocating for social change,” he said.

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