AFL legend Leigh Matthews has hit out at Cricket Australia’s move to ask for government help in having its players vaccinated against COVID-19 after being on the receiving end of a stern rebuke from Scott Morrison.
The Prime Minister condemned the governing body’s decision to omit any reference to Australia Day in its Big Bash games on Tuesday, as CA instead chooses to promote them as “January 26” matches following consultation with Indigenous leaders.
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Morrison labelled the move “pretty ordinary” but has since faced a wave of backlash from cricketers and other athletes — including Olympic hero Cathy Freeman — over his Australia Day remarks, which included saying: “You know on Australia Day, it’s all about acknowledging how far we’ve come. When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”
The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday CA has formally asked the federal government if its players can receive the vaccine to protect against COVID-19 before they jet off on a tour to South Africa next month, because the country is deemed a “very high risk” destination for contracting the virus.
The vaccine rollout is expected to begin in the coming weeks and months Down Under, and CA’s request was seen by some as an unfair attempt to jump to the front of the queue.
Hawthorn champion Matthews, who coached the Brisbane Lions to three straight premierships, is one such figure who thinks it’s a bit rich for cricket to be asking for special treatment. He then went a step further, linking the vaccine request to the sport’s stance on Australia Day.
“CA certainly have plenty of cheek,” Matthews tweeted. “Mess around with the government currently mandated January 26 being known as Australia Day and then wanting a favour from the government to jump the COVID vaccination queue.”
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Plenty disagreed with Matthews, jumping in the comments to make their opposition known.
Sports writer Richard Hinds wrote: “Leigh do you believe government aid or support is dependent on supporting the government’s political agenda and not merely on the merit of your claim for taxpayer funds?”
Several days ago Matthews had actually voiced his support to change the date of Australia Day. “Got to agree that January 1st, the anniversary of Federation is the most appropriate date for Australia Day,” he tweeted.
Earlier in the month the footy icon caused a stir when he defended deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for saying “all lives matter”.
“Sometimes you just scratch your head with what you hear, being outraged about a simple uttering that all lives matter is bewildering as is the view that violent riots are OK if you support the underlying cause, beats me!” Matthews tweeted.