RUGBY league powerbrokers are embroiled in a racial feud, with Aboriginal great Larry Corowa launching a savage attack on ARL commissioner Chris Sarra following the sacking of ARL Indigenous Council chairman Percy Knight.
Knight made this sensational allegation last night: “There is rampant racism within the NRL’s administration and it is very toxic.”
It comes in the very week when rugby league celebrates its indigenous heritage through the All Stars concept.
Knight received a one-paragraph termination letter from ARLC chairman John Grant on Friday, informing him he had lost the faith of his fellow council members.
That prompted a venomous response from Corowa in a fiery letter to Grant and Sarra, in which he asked: “Chris, how do you live with yourself in the knowledge that you played a prominent and key role in our demise from ARLIC?
“Is this the Aboriginal way or the Coconut way?”
The term “coconut” is a deeply offensive racial slur, suggesting an Aboriginal is black on the outside but white on the inside.
Corowa was not backing down when contacted last night. “The council is there to tick the boxes for white fellas, for the NRL and John Grant,” the former Balmain winger said.
“The first council meeting I went to, there were more white fellas than black people and it’s meant to be an indigenous body.
“The Australian government wants to close the gap on indigenous rights. The ARL Commission is widening the gap with the way we are treated.
“(Percy’s) been knifed in the back. How can you have two meetings and want to get rid of him because he wants to engage the community and ensure we have a voice in the running of the game?
“We are sick of the control from the white people in the game. Aboriginal people do have brains and we can manage our own programs.”
Asked if Sarra should resign, Corowa said: “Yes, he should resign immediately. The community had a meeting two weeks ago in Sydney and people voted no confidence in him as a commissioner.
“They don’t want him representing Aboriginal people in rugby league.”
Last night Sarra said he would be happy to meet Knight to address his concerns. “The tone of the letter says more about the people who are writing it than it says about me,” Sarra said.
“I am happy to let my record in indigenous communities across Australia stand and I am happy to do the same in the context of my contribution as a commissioner in rugby league.
“At the core of this issue is that the chairman (Knight) just didn’t have the confidence of his own council. It’s as simple as that.
“If the relationship is ‘toxic’, then none of the fantastic things that are happening this week would be happening.”
Knight and Corowa voiced their concerns in early December, claiming the council lacked a voice on key indigenous issues confronting the code.
Above all, the pair are furious that indigenous grants are being distributed to grassroots football by the ARLC’s community arm, One Community.
They both say that is part of the reason for Knight’s dismissal.
Knight said: “There are no black fellas involved with One Community. We don’t want to be grouped with Polynesians or Maoris.
“We are first Australians.”
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