Players of Pacific Island heritage are refusing to represent Australia in various football codes until Australia takes action to halt the climate crisis which threatens the lands of their ancestors.
Players from Rugby League and Rugby Union whose families hail from countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have united in an attempt to force the Australian government and its people to take real action which protects the environment and their homelands.
“Pacific Island nations are under threat,” began a joint statement from the players.
“Australia must stop causing the climate crisis, and must start fixing it. Until this happens, players of Pacific Island heritage will not make themselves eligible for national teams such as the Wallabies, Wallaroos, Kangaroos and Jillaroos – or Rugby Sevens teams.”
The climate crisis is already having a devastating impact on island nations throughout the South Pacific. Rising sea levels carry saltwater into fresh water lakes and onto farms where crops are destroyed. Unpredictable seasons make farming more difficult and more severe weather causes human and economic damage throughout the region. Natural disasters are an increasing threat and entire nations could be underwater as sea levels continue to rise.
Australia is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It has the highest per-capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, due largely to a dependence on the fossil fuel industry, land clearing and traditional agricultural practices. It is lagging in the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and incentives for household solar installation are being removed. Alternative transport is not being embraced, and new coal mines are being proposed, even on the fringes of world heritage listed national parks.
Average Australians continue to vote for the politicians which implement the destructive policies, and Aussies create substantial waste and pollution in their daily lives.
“Three politicians even joked about our islands going underwater,” the players recounted.
“Peter Dutton was caught joking about it to the current Prime Minister, who claims to be a fan of rugby league, and a former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who loves rugby union. We’ll see if they’re still laughing when there are no Pacific Island players in their national teams – and whether Morrison will want to run water for a team that is always losing. Our players will also refuse selection in the Prime Minister’s XIII and XV”
The move will severely weaken national teams. 19 of the 44 players in the men’s rugby union team, the Wallabies, have Pacific Island heritage, while the women’s team, the Wallaroos, contains 14 of 31 squad members. Players like Ellia Green will also withdraw from the women’s rugby seven’s squad, as the team defends its Olympic gold medal in Tokyo later this year.
Indigenous Australian players have joined the move. The farms and mines driving climate change sit on their land, and Aboriginal people witness the destruction first hand.
“So, now you have to imagine a Kangaroos team without players like Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Xavier Coates, Jack Bird, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker, Dane Gagai, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Tyson Frizell, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Payne Haas, Daniel Saifiti and Josh Papali’i.”
The players stressed that this was not an easy or spontaneous decision.
“We love playing for Australia. We are proud Australians, and put our heart and soul into every game we play for this country. We did not take this decision lightly, and only did it because the situation is desperate and action must be taken now. We still have family in the Pacific, and we took this action in the hope that the Australian people and politicians will start taking notice, and start taking action – now.”
The talented players will still play the game they love, even if not for Australia.
“We will play for the nations of our ancestors. Jason Taumalolo and other league players went back to play for Tonga a few years ago, and they beat Australia fair and square. A lot of league and union fans have long wondered what would happen if the Islander players united for their homelands, soon we will find out.”
The players are acutely aware that most Australians want action on climate change.
“When that happens, we will proudly pull on the green and gold.”
Image: Getty Images