Scintillating Swans: The Ultimate Season
Round 11 – Transcending Football
Sydney v Adelaide – Round 18, 2015
“I was done. I called John Longmire and I just broke down. I’m not coming in today, I can’t do it.” – Adam Goodes, The Australian Dream.
For two years, Adam Goodes persevered in the face of a growing grotesque mob mentality that had swept through the football world. After enduring yet another heinous display from an opposition crowd in Perth, he decided enough was enough.
Kieren Jack was the club’s co-captain at the time and the events of that day in Perth remain clear. They were worried for their mate - “Things clearly came to a head after the West Coast game and I think that one of the more powerful statements to come out of that situation, was when Lewis Jetta reacted during the game, then the way he came out and spoke after the West Coast game with Adam. That kind of highlighted that it was really affecting other people within our team, a lot more.” he recalls.
When publicly calling out racism was inexplicably not enough for the racism to cease, Goodes took measures in to his own hands, stepping away from the game he loved. Jack looks back on the lead up to these events with a sense of sorrow. “There's no doubt about it. It was affecting everyone at the club, but the strongest person through it all was Adam.”
Regular meetings and discussions took place as the issue grew. “Every week we talked to him, and he would say it was wasn't affecting him and it was fine and let's just worry about the team. Such was his kind of selfless attitude towards it, so it was almost like well he’s ok.” Jack continues, “And I wish we could have probably done some things differently at the time but if it wasn't affecting Adam, and that’s what we thought, then we were just going to keep on going.”
As Goodes took leave, our Swans prepared to face Adelaide at the SCG. Jack remembers the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding their teammate’s situation. “And then obviously Adam took some time away. That really stung the group. And we had the press conference, so it was a big week in itself. We honestly weren't sure whether Adam would come back.”
As a much-respected presenter on NITV’s Marngrook Footy Show, Shelley Ware is well versed in the events of 2015. “When Adam chose not to play in that game because it had all taken a toll on him and his family ultimately, it was a really sad day with a lot of emotions.” She continues, “It started off with anger that such a beautiful man had been made to feel this way with no real intervention or strong stand from the AFL. I didn’t really want to watch the game because of what happened to Adam, but I tuned in and there were all of these amazing Swans supporters and people who hadn’t been to the footy in years, they had all turned up to show him that they loved him and they were there for him. That anger faded and was overshadowed by gratitude and love.”
The response from the Red & White faithful was immense. We made a stand that transcended football, and it was magnificent. Pre-game feelings of restlessness and emptiness dissipated with a single scan of the SCG stands - a sumptuous sight and emotions were running high. Could you be prouder to be a Swan?
The match commenced and it was Jetta who made the statement on the field. Surging through the outer-side wing, he unleashed a trademark strike on the Sherrin, with the ball sailing through from outside fifty. He dedicated the first goal of the game to Goodes with an Indigenous war dance, a nod to a similar celebration performed by Goodes in Indigenous Round that year. “It was just very fitting that Jets kicked the opening goal, which is funny how footy can script in certain ways. And that was very fitting and I’m really glad that it happened that way.” Jack adds.
Our team were firing in an explosive display and during the third-quarter of the match, our fans united as one in support of our absent champion. “When that seventh minute of the third quarter came and everyone stood up and applauded Adam, that was really moving. It will stay with me forever and I’m sure it will stay with Adam forever.” Ware recalls fondly, “The impact of the fans really helped to heal actually, in that moment. It was a beautiful moment of people coming together and people showing Adam that they stood with him.”
For the players, it was a completely unexpected moment, as Kieren Jack explains. “You know the seventh minute of the third quarter, we had no idea that was happening, and at the time it made us think what's going on? And we found out afterwards that it was for Adam and we as a playing group were just so proud of our members and fans and knowing what we were all standing up to.”
For Shelley Ware and her fellow Indigenous peoples, there was an uplifting element to the show of solidarity that day. “It showed the AFL community that the fans had had enough. That his fans had had enough. That they wanted the racism to stop. And if you think that racism didn’t play a role in what was happening with Adam, they were making a stand and letting people know that it did have an impact.” She continues, “It had an impact on them and on Adam. As a community and as Swans supporters they stood together and said we’ve had enough and it has to stop.”
The club as a whole, shone in showing what Adam Goodes meant to them and why fighting racism is so fundamentally important. “What it highlighted and showed was the solidarity and how strong the Sydney Swans values are. And I mean Sydney Swans in its entirety; its fans, members, admin, staff and players. Everyone came together and with the wording on the banner, the crowd with their signs, that was a special game to be a part of.” Jack recalls.
Our boys played well to win by fifty-two points. However, the result that day was almost irrelevant. The display of defiance from the almost forty-thousand Bloods had raised hope that we could all live in a society somewhat devoid of discrimination. The sad fact of the matter is we only saw Adam Goodes play seven more times. Seven more times he was booed.
Jack and his teammates remain exceedingly proud of their friend and the legacy he has left. “Unfortunately, we're going to need to continue the fight. We are continuing to fight racism, but if we look back on history, Adam will be seen as a springboard for it and the catalyst for hopefully, bringing change.” He continues, “What I do know is, in talking to him, and other Indigenous players since, it's almost like they've made a pact to each other that because of what Adam has done, they're not going to be scared of standing up to it in the future, which Adam’s been the catalyst for and guys like Michael Long as well. We should all be making a pact. That it's not acceptable and we need to work hard as footy clubs and a society to stamp that sort of behaviour out.”
Fighting racism is an ongoing battle for Indigenous Australians and Shelley Ware concludes that educating remains the most powerful approach. “Some needed films like The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream to come out. Some watched them with reluctancy, but those who watched could really see that the booing had an impact.” She continues, “It was great to see that some people had actually reached out and apologised and some didn’t actually realise that systematic racism played such a role in what happened to Adam. It’s great to see that over time, it has educated people and I just hope this is something that we never see again.”