23 Oct 2018

NRL address alleged 'dance monkey dance' remark to Tongan fans

10:14 am on 23 October 2018

"Dance monkey dance" were the words a DJ says he heard by an NRL staffer towards Tongan fans during the weekend's historic test between Tonga and Australia.

Tongan fans celebrate a try against Australia.

Tongan fans celebrate a try against Australia during the weekend's historic test with Australia. Photo: Photosport

DJ Alf 'Al Goodie' Aholelei posted on Facebook to say he heard an official say the words during the halftime entertainment, as the cameras zoomed in on animated Tonga supporters.

The DJ was playing to a packed Mt Smart Stadium and was in the production suite when he heard the man speak.

"Whilst all this was happening, a gentleman was standing behind me and just happened to utter the words 'Dance monkey dance'," Mr 'Aholelei said.

His initial reaction was one of shock and was shared by others around him who had heard the remark, he said.

"I was in disbelief that those were the words that someone had chosen to use," Mr 'Aholelei said.

"I really couldn't believe it. I had to turn around and say something to the guy and it was only a few words which was basically 'Did you just say 'Dance monkey dance?'"

DJ Algoodie wrote about his experience in a Facebook post which has been shared by almost 3000 people since he posted it on Sunday night.

Many were outraged by the details of the incident and Mr 'Aholelei said people have reached out to him from all over the world.

In a statement to RNZ, the NRL said they took the claims seriously and were now investigating what happened.

Mr 'Aholelei said the NRL's investigation unit were swift to make contact with him and offer him support.

He said the NRL employee had tried to apologise to him later on during the game, but he was too upset to respond and wanted to focus his energy on doing his job.

"It was so offensive in terms of - it was one of the best nights to be a part of, or to be a Tongan," Mr 'Aholelei said.

"I can't explain how tough it was to kind of just go through the last 40 minutes and just have that in your mind."

It's not the first time Mr 'Aholelei has been appointed to play for a Tonga test match but he said he had never experienced an incident like it before.

He claimed another NRL staffer made comments several times during the game, suggesting Tongan fans might be violent towards any Australian fans.

Manase Lua, from the Tongan NRL, said he hoped the incident was an isolated error.

"Well I was extremely disappointed and very sad, given that it was a very successful event," Mr Lua said.

"And I would hate to think that it was an indication of the culture at NRL."

NRL figures show 45 percent of players have Pasifika heritage and on their website, their core values include respecting and celebrating diversity in culture.

While both Mr Lua and Mr 'Aholelei commended the NRL for their swift action, Mr 'Aholelei said that given the significant number of Pacific players in the organisation, he hoped the attitude he witnessed was not common within the organisation.

"You know I hope that this isn't something common and that is normal for Australian players to hear," Mr 'Aholelei said.

"There are Tongan players in that team. There are Aboriginal players in that team. You know, every player in that Australian team is connected to a person of colour.

"That's a huge chunk of the NRL who are Pacific and it represents a huge revenue stream for them," Mr Lua said.

"So we have now got influential and political muscle within the wider NRL. If they want their brand to reflect the player base and the community base and the fan base, they need to address anything like this very quickly - and fortunately, they have in this case."

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