AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has responded to Adam Goodes’ decision to decline his inclusion in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Earlier in the week Goodes privately knocked back the honour despite being a unanimous first-year candidate having been retired for five years to meet eligibility.
McLachlan said he supported whatever decision Goodes made, and was hopeful that “time heals”.
“I’ve certainly spoken to him in recent years, I haven’t spoken to him this year,” McLachlan told 3AW.
“It’s a decision for Adam and Adam only, and we understand and respect his choice.
“I don’t say this lightly – he’s a champion of the game and a leader who gave a hell of a lot.
“I think everyone hopes there’s a time in the future when he wants to be connected to the game again but it’s got to be when he’s ready.
“I certainly understand that he’s not and certainly understand it’s going to take some time. But hopefully time heals.”
The two-time Brownlow Medallist’s AFL career came to a bitter end in 2015 with his last two years in the game marred by relentless booing, fan abuse, and thinly-veiled racism.
AFL Commission Chair Richard Goyder suggested on Tuesday that Goodes’ decision not to accept the Hall of Fame induction was linked to his traumatic final seasons, with the league admitting they did too little in addressing the Swans legend’s concerns at the time.
“The treatment of Adam in his final years at AFL level drove him from football. The AFL and our game did not do enough to stand with him at the time, and call it out,” Goyder said.
“The unreserved apology that the game provided him in 2019 was too late, but, on behalf of our Commission and the AFL, I apologise unreservedly again for our failures during this period.
“Failure to call out racism and not standing up for Adam let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present.
“We hope that there will be a time in the future when Adam will want to be connected to the game again. This is a decision for Adam and Adam only and we understand and respect his choice.”
Following his retirement from footy after 372 games, Goodes disappeared from Aussie Rules circles, disappointed and disillusioned with the game he loved and dominated for so long.
In 2019 the four-time All-Australian was the subject of a moving documentary, The Final Quarter, which centred around the booing controversy, with the director confirming Goodes himself is still traumatised by the true events depicted in the film. Another film The Australian Dream on the same subject was also released at the same time.
“Hearing that booing again was incredibly traumatic for him,” The Final Quarter director Ian Darling told Wide World of Sports.
“He had a very emotional response which is understandable. He had to again live through some of the most horrible incidents in his life.
“Hearing these negative comments, it was very difficult for him to watch, and also it was emotional because he saw that there was a lot of love and support for him as well. Those mixed emotions made it very difficult and he said, ‘I can only watch this once’.”
After viewing a screening of the documentary, the AFL Players Association’s Indigenous Advisory Board had “feelings of anger, shame and guilt” and AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield said players felt “incredibly sad” for what Goodes had to go through.
It wasn’t until after that documentary that the AFL issued an official apology to Adam Goodes – four years after he had retired – for their inaction during the booing saga and pledged to “never see the mistakes of the past repeated”.
In reaction to Goodes’ Hall of Fame decision, Eddie Betts, who has also been the target of horrible racist abuse during his AFL career, said that no matter what the league does, Goodes may never properly heal from his experience.
“Because obviously what happened to Adam throughout his last two years of playing AFL, and the stuff that he copped throughout the organisation and the general public as well, it does leave a scar,” Betts told AFL 360.
“And when you speak about racial abuse, (and ask) would time heal that? Time can’t heal racism.”
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