Anthony Mundine has insulted many people over the years but his relationship with Laurie Daley is complicated.
A who’s who of the Sydney sporting world, led by legendary league coach Wayne Bennett, former rugby league teammates and rivals Laurie Daley, Matthew Johns and Gorden Tallis, and AFL great Michael O’Loughlin gathered to pay tribute to Anthony Mundine.
Of all the stars in attendance, Mundine’s relationship with Daley has been one that’s endured arguably the most turbulence over the years.
Although, Mundine did point to Johns’ selection in the 2000 State of Origin series as the catalyst for quitting the Dragons to take up boxing, his relationship with Daley is a little more complicated.
The retired boxer’s infamous “running on old legs” quip during his league career was the tip of the iceberg. The former Canberra star, who is also Indigenous, was the celebrated five eighth of his era, much to Mundine’s chagrin.
Daley and Brad Fittler won premierships, captained their state and country and were always picked ahead of Mundine in his preferred five-eighth position. He won a premiership with Brisbane during the 1997 Super League season as a centre and played for NSW off the bench in the 1999 Origin series but never got the chance to play a representative match in the halves.
Mundine was 6-0 against Daley and Fittler from 1996-2000 in head-to-head clashes at the five-eighth position. The ex-league star would chirp every time he got one over them.
Daley would never respond, maintaining a steely resolve that made him a favourite among coaches. That is, until one clash between the Dragons and Raiders, where Mundine got the sense that Daley wasn’t happy. No trash talk, he just had a hardcore look in his eyes, Mundine said.
“One day when we played Laurie he caught the ball off the kick-off and ran straight at me, that was like sending a message,” Mundine told Wide World of Sports.
“I said to him ‘All day brother, all day, you ain’t gonna come near me I’m gonna smash you every time.’
“I just talked s–t to him and he said ‘yeah righteo righteo’.”
Clashes on the field aside, Mundine has thrown verbal haymakers below the belt in order to sell his fights and in recent years Daley was caught in the crossfire. In 2013 Daley was in camp coaching the Indigenous All Stars when he learned Mundine had labelled him and Immortal Arthur Beetson ‘Uncle Toms’, an offensive term that describes a black man considered to be excessively obedient to white people.
During a press conference before his loss to world IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale, Mundine let fly at Daley for not proclaiming his Indigenous heritage enough, while lamenting Beetson’s role in keeping him out of the Kangaroos team as chairman of selectors.
Mundine was preparing for a fight but he still had time to poke Daley, yet his former rival said he didn’t take offence to the comments, declaring he was comfortable in his own skin.
“You know what? I’m comfortable knowing who I am and where I am from,” he said at the time. “I don’t have to tell the world who I am, what I am.
“I understand he’s selling [boxing] tickets so for me it is a non-issue. I accept people for who they are and if Choc wants to say things, that’s his prerogative. He justifies it to himself, so that’s fine. I don’t worry about what people say about me.”
It wasn’t the first time Mundine had cut down fellow Indigenous stars, labelling Aboriginal icon Cathy Freeman a “sellout” in 2007. Yet out of all those he insulted, and there was a fair few on the list, Daley put it behind him to show up at Mundine’s retirement press conference yesterday to pay tribute to ‘The Man’.
“What a wonderful human being he is,” Daley said.
“We all admire what he does in the boxing ring and on the rugby league field, but it goes much deeper than that.
“Choc’s been a wonderful ambassador for the Indigenous community. He sticks up for his people, he’s very passionate about what he does.
“Someone that stands up for his own convictions and what he believes in.
“He is without doubt one of Australia’s greatest ever sportsmen but, while he’s had a wonderful career in rugby league and in the ring, I think we’re about to see the start of a bigger legacy.”
Even though Mundine acknowledged he said some “raw” things in the past, the fact that Daley showed up to express his appreciation is an indication he’s come full circle.
“It was special for him to come here and show his support we had a great rivalry me, him and Fittler,” Mundine said. “We never butted heads off the field, I never really saw them. But on the field it was like a world title fight. Alhamdulillah I’ve always come away the victor.”
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