The ceremonial preface to the State of Origin series, traditionally a uniting event, turned contentious as Uncle Karl Winda Telfer referenced the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament during his speech.
The "Welcome to Country" address at Adelaide Oval was intended to prelude the opener match between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues.
Telfer, addressing the gathered spectators, spoke about the necessity for "serious conversations" preceding the impending referendum.
"We're not about pushing people apart, we're about the union," he insisted, emphasising that the time had come for mature discussion.
The reference to the Voice to Parliament sparked division among the football enthusiasts.
Senator Jacinta Price, the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, was one of the vocal critics of the address.
Speaking to 2GB radio, Senator Price expressed her exasperation with the ritual recognitions.
"I’m sick and tired of these acknowledgements because of nothing more than my racial heritage,” she explained.
Price questioned the necessity of singling out Indigenous First Nations people for recognition, labeling it as unnecessary and divisive.
A considerable number of State of Origin fans echoed Price's sentiments, taking to social media to voice their concerns over the "Welcome to Country" ceremony's political undertones.
The debate was intensified by tweets such as, "Was that a Welcome To Country or a lecture?" and "NRL keep politics out of footy.”
Notably, Senator Price has been an active advocate against the Voice to Parliament campaign. She shared her conversations with remote Northern Territory communities who voiced their resistance to the proposed constitutional changes.
Price emphasised that these communities are often left out of the discussions, despite being used as a means to push the agenda.
She criticised the campaign as an initiative led by privileged individuals who already have substantial access to resources.
The NRL has officially declared its support for the Yes campaign, along with over 20 of Australia's major sports organisations, including the AFL, Cricket Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee.