Injured Titans captain Ryan James has indicated his willingness to join the silent protest of the national anthem by Indigenous players as he targets the All Stars game next February for his return to rugby league.
With one NRL pre-season under his belt, James was an inspired supporter in the stands when the Indigenous All Stars game was first played in 2010 and just 12 months later he made the first of five All Stars appearances.
James missed this year’s All Stars game in February due to injury, a game which attracted widespread attention for the stance taken by Indigenous All Stars captain Cody Walker who said the anthem did not represent him or his family.
It was a statement that was continued on rugby league’s biggest stage, State of Origin, where the chorus of calls for change was joined by the likes of Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Will Chambers and other Indigenous and non-Indigenous players.
Although he didn’t play, James was in the Indigenous camp in Melbourne for much of the week and said that he would have also stood silent during the national anthem.
All Stars heads back to Gold Coast
"I know the boys definitely stood up for what they believed in last year and I fully support what they did,” James told NRL.com.
"If I was playing, I would have done the same thing.”
While the majority of the Indigenous players stood silent, Maori players gave a rousing rendition of God Defend New Zealand which includes both English and Maori lyrics.
All Stars games have traditionally included a version of Advance Australia Fair sung in an Indigenous language but given there are between 290 and 363 Indigenous languages spoken throughout Australia, incorporating one into the anthem on a regular basis appears unlikely.
"I think it would be too tough to do it in just one language because there are a lot of different languages and a lot of them we're starting to lose,” explained James, a proud Bundjalung man.
"It's harder for us because there are so many different languages. In the Maori culture it's one language and they grow up learning everything about that one language whereas we're here, there and everywhere.
"Languages change between here and Brisbane so it's a lot harder to be able to narrow it down to one.”
On the comeback trail from an ACL injury that he suffered in the Titans’ round six win over the Knights, James is targeting the All Stars game to be played on the Gold Coast on February 22 as his return to the field.
Incorporating change of direction in his running program for the first time on Friday, James hopes to be cleared to complete all training when Justin Holbrook commences his first pre-season as Titans coach in November.
"That will probably be my first or second game back,” James said of his All Stars availability.
"It will be interesting to see how I go. I'm sure the lungs will feel it. If they're 20-minute quarters again I should be right.
"Being able to take All Stars out to other communities has been great but to have it back here on the Goldy is something pretty special.
"We're training up until grand final day so I'll stay on, work up until then and try and get in as much as possible.
"I should be pretty close if not ready day one of pre-season. If not I might work a little bit of contact into the first couple of weeks and then I should be fine."
James injured in tackle