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Understanding the booing of Adam Goodes

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Former AFL footballer and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes (Screenshot via YouTube)

The film, The Final Quarter, needs to be seen by all Australians in order to appreciate that Adam Goodes has been wronged by this nation, writes Noely Neate.

ON THURSDAY (18 July), the documentary, The Final Quarter, aired. Many Australian Football League (AFL) fans – hopefully – watched it. Those who didn’t watch it were probably those who don’t follow the sports ball.

My plea to those who don’t "give a rat's" about sport but care about this nation and righting the wrongs of the past is, please, take the time to watch this documentary. It is important, it is educational and if you are a decent human being, it will make you angry, ashamed, tearful and shocked all at once.

The Final Quarter is more than racism in sport. It is also about us as a nation. How we treat Indigenous Australians and how a good man was hounded into silence.

I love sport. I love most sports, particularly women’s sports. Unlike many Australians, though, I don’t follow AFL. I don’t even understand AFL. I’ve never been to a game — it just wasn’t a thing when I was growing up in Queensland. In fact, I have only even noticed AFL in recent years due to my support of women in sport and the start of the AFL Women's competition.

What was happening to Adam Goodes when he was playing, also, meant nothing to me really, as I was removed from it. I regret that now. Adam Goodes was one of those players whose names I recognised, but that was it. In fact, until he was made Australian of the Year in 2014, he was just another AFL player. I was fascinated that he was involved in so many Indigenous community programs and gave so much of his time to helping others. To be frank, he could have been a crap sportsman, but it appeared to me he exemplified an Australia as we should be and I was really impressed that the Australia Day committee had made such a good choice.

Then the booing saga started. Again, I didn’t really understand it and never having been to a live game, I also never understood the enormity of it. I didn’t understand how all-pervasive the issue was. I would ask the odd question on Twitter and some would tell me it was racist and others would tell me “Goodes was a flog”. “Flog”, being a word I was unfamiliar with. For someone who didn’t follow AFL, it all seemed too hard to understand what the hell was going on with the media and the AFL in relation to Adam Goodes.

I always thought that the AFL had better standards than the NRL, which I did follow. Not quite sure why I had that impression, but I did. I did, however, see his press conference where he called out the racism from the 13-year-old girl and I was so impressed by the empathy and understanding shown by this man. He was gutted but didn’t blame the young girl, his focus was on where this girl has learned this behaviour and on tackling racism in our society. One of the classiest and wisest responses I had heard from any person of note in this nation. 

As a non-AFL fan, I found this man to be inspirational.

Fast forward to more drama in the "Indigenous Round", where Goodes celebrated a goal with a war dance. Then, of course, the usual suspects started calling out. I was shocked — really shocked. I mean, not understanding squat about AFL I was not in the position to be too outspoken but, bloody hell, people having a problem with an Aboriginal war dance as a celebration? In the Indigenous Round?!

Finding out it was a tribute to the under-16s development squad of the Flying Boomerangs, who taught him moves, made the outrage by some in media and AFL even more ludicrous. 

As I said, I’m a fan of NRL, many Pacific Islanders and Aboriginals over the years have had "try" celebrations – some cooler than others – but one of the best is Greg Inglis and his Goanna crawl. There might have been a few dinosaurs who were not impressed seeing that in 2014, the first time he did it, but, they obviously didn’t get much traction in media. Everyone I know thought it was really cool and as Queenslanders, we hoped to see it ourselves because he would be doing another wonderful 80th-minute try to pull Queensland out of the poo in a State of Origin match.

I honestly could not comprehend the difference in attitudes between the two codes to a proud Aboriginal athlete celebrating his heritage.

Watching The Final Quarter connected all those dots for me. At the end of this doco, I cried. I don’t understand how Adam Goodes could keep running on that field every week with those boos? I can’t imagine how his life was, how he felt. I won’t even pretend to understand how depressing and heart-breaking that period must have been for Adam and his family and friends who loved him. I was heartened to – finally – see that support at the end with the"I stand with Adam" move, but so little, so late.

What is more shocking is this documentary is not someone’s opinion. There is no narrator, it is just chronological documentation of media snippets, broadcasts, football games, print and social media. This format packs punch. I would hope any of those thousands who booed Goodes, at AFL grounds all over this nation, are ashamed of themselves now.

The usual suspects in media who ramped up outrage against Goodes — well, they will never feel shame, they will just move on to their next white privilege drama to beat up and divide people, while they, of course, label minorities who have the temerity to call them out on their bullshit, “divisive”.

Adam Goodes has been wronged by this nation. He is a man of calibre. He is a man who can improve this nation — if  White Australia listens to him.

Don’t dismiss watching this film just because you don’t follow sport or AFL. It is not comfortable, but it is important.

Adam Goodes for governor-general?

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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