You can almost hear them gathering around the water coolers, can’t you?
The Melbournians, readying themselves for resumption. The new beginning. That wonderful neutrality of all teams on zero points. Nobody winning, nobody losing. Just hope – even a few prayers – for the winter ahead.
Ah. The “industry” that is AFL. If only the rest of the world understood how important it was…
The head honchos of the game even recently accused Cricket Australia of “staging” the David Warner – Quinton De Kock fracas, to hijack the media and deprive them of pre-season publicity. Seriously. How up yourself do you need to be before that’s even a possibility?
Anyway, one person who’s not waiting for the first bounce of 2018 is a bloke who up until a couple of years ago, was there for the bounce every week. For 18 seasons in fact.
Not these days. Adam Goodes, AFL legend, 2014 Australian of the Year, rarely even watches the games on telly.
Now, before we jump to all sorts of rash conclusions – he’s bitter, he’s twisted, he’s disillusioned with the game… with the world… you should know, he’s nothing of the sort.
Goodes is just doing other stuff.
The two time Brownlow medallist, two time premiership player and veteran of 392 games for the Swannies is living a “normal” life, ducking away for the weekend with his wife Natalie to the NSW south coast, to unwind, kickback, get a bit of salt air in their lungs.
He says he only goes to the footy once a year – indigenous round – to help his cousin and business partner Michael O’Loughlin with official “GO” Foundation business, “GO being the charitable entity they established back in 2009 to help create opportunities for Aboriginal youth.
He enjoys that day, loves it, but that does him for the whole year. Unlike a lot of retired footy players, he doesn’t miss playing, or the roar of the crowd on game day.
The roar that Goodes heard of course, at the back end of his career wasn’t one he really wanted to remember. It told him his time playing footy was up, that there were other more important areas of endeavour, passions he wanted to pursue.
You’ve probably still got your own view on that whole booing thing. Goodes you might remember became the centre of a national debate in 2013 when he picked on that poor innocent 13-year old girl, a Collingwood supporter, who called him an ape. He singled her out, humiliated her. She was disabled. Sitting by herself. Abandoned at birth. Only one leg. Not a friend in the world. The story developed a life of its own.
The booing, you might also remember got louder a couple of years later when Goodes, during the indigenous round no less, threw that imaginary spear at the Carlton supporters, Didn’t that cause some damage? Really fired a few people up. Particularly The Parrott.
“The booing’s got nothing to do with the color of his skin,” The Parrott squawked. “They just don’t rate this bloke. They reckon he’s a goose. I mean, there are 71 Indigenous players in the AFL. They’re in rugby league, they’re in rugby union. They’re everywhere. They’re playing tennis, and people don’t boo them. They’re booing Adam Goodes because they don’t like him and they don’t like his behavior.”
Ah. The Parrott. How would we know what to think without The Parrott?
Granted, it’s pretty easy to jump to conclusions these days, when so many of our “conversations” are conducted in 140 (or more recently 280) character sound bytes.
Twitter and other social media rants – today’s primary dialogue. We know everything, and yet we know nothing.
When we actually sit down one on one, and talk and listen, and seek to understand, the takeaway can often be very different.
Like with Goodes. When you learn where he came from, and what he and his immediate family endured, the lens changes.
His mother Lisa, taken from her parents at the age of 5, dragged kicking and screaming from under her bed in Point Pearce, on the York Peninsula in South Australia.
She would grow into a courageous woman, a qualified nurse, a single mother of three boys, moving around South Australian and Victoria, trying to find a “better place to be”.
Goodes would be bullied at school – by the age of 12, he’d attended eight different ones. He was called every name under the sun, most of the time, he had no idea what the words even meant.
“Whats a black C, Mum?” Why would they call me that mum?” I don’t know Adam. They just do. Walk away. Be the better man. Goodes walked away.
At 14, he discovered footy. He loved it – everything about it. He developed skills, he showed promise, he was drafted, he became a professional. Over the years, he would learn to stand up, and speak up. Oddly enough, his early reluctance to do so was what cost him a leadership role within the Swans – he was a standout player, but he didn’t contribute, he didn’t drive team culture- he was more worried about himself than others, or so he was told.
Goodes wanted to be a leader. He sought feedback, he learned what was required and amended his ways. He became a leader, a captain of his club and his country, one of the game’s most decorated players.
These days, Adam Goodes has plenty of opinions, his detractors would say far too many. But that’s OK, Goodes knows who he is, and what he stands for.
And he’s happy to have the debate. As long as it’s considered and respectful. What’s most important, he says, “is that we’re talking – we’re listening to one another and trying to understand different perspectives”.
He knows not everybody is going to agree with him. But again, that’s OK. As he decided a couple of years ago, what people think of him – that’s none of his business.
He’s just focusing on helping his people. Young indigenous people.
And being a better man.
Third Half athlete of the month: Mick Fanning, paddling off into the sunset after a stellar career which yielded three world titles and TKO victory over that great white shark in South Africa’s J-Bay. How much do we love Mick? Had his fair share of personal turmoil over the years but authentic to the very end. And respect from his peers – wow. His final gesture as a professional – gifting his board to a young fan on the shoreline, encapsulated him perfectly.
The Golden Lance for Brand Erosion: Mr and Mrs Warner’s little boy Davey. Much of course has been written and said about the unflattering incident in South Africa – right down to “how dare they film – and then release – the vision of a private moment”. Who would have thought that would’ve happened? In 2018? But wash away all the rhetoric – particularly the meritorious lengths little Davey went to defend the honor of his wife, and the simple fact remains. Warner the cricketer is much admired by his peers. Warner the person is not widely respected by his peers.
And how do I know that? You’re just going to have to trust me.
Free advice section: To all those athletes planning – or not planning – to front court over the next 12 to 24 months, you might want to give some prior though to your appearance on your big day. Suits are good, but haircuts are also powerful. And I’m not sure the “man bun” is the best play. Think target audience. Think judge. I’m guessing there are very few, sitting behind “the bench” with their hair coiffed up in a man bun. Then again, what’s under those funny wigs, I guess we’ll never know for sure.
Thought of the month: “We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean… and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect”. – Michelle Obama, perhaps talking about Mick, not Davey.