Adam Goodes rejecting his AFL Hall of Fame honour is a national shame

My one-year-old son was chasing a ball across a playground at Bondi Beach this week when a tall man with long, greying hair began offering him encouragement.

“Good kicking, mate,” he said, as he stopped the ball from rolling away and sent it back in my son’s direction. “Very good.”

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As my eyes wandered upward I was surprised to see it was former AFL superstar Adam Goodes cheering on my boy.

It was the type of interaction I’m learning as a new parent isn’t always the norm in those environments as many opt to keep their focus locked on their own children and share awkward smiles when they inevitably collide with someone else’s.

It was the smallest glimpses into what anyone who has encountered the now 41-year-old Sydney Swans legend will tell you — he’s just a good bloke.

It’s what makes the revelation Goodes has knocked back an offer to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame at best really, really sad and at worst a national shame.

Adam Goodes celebrates after winning his second flag in the 2012 Grand Final. Picture: Wayne TaylorSource:Supplied

The Herald Sun revealed on Tuesday the two-time Brownlow Medallist and dual premiership winner had told the AFL he wouldn’t accept the honour because of the way he was booed out of the game towards the end of his 372-game career.

As a footballer Goodes ticks every box you’d want from a Hall of Famer. He is on a short list of players who could comfortably play every position on the field, enjoyed remarkable longevity in the game and scaled its highest peaks.

But his final years were blighted by controversy as an unprepared footy community really grappled with the issue of racism.

If we’ve learned anything in the past 12 months after George Floyd’s death sparked a new level of reflection and understanding about the issues faced by black people across the globe, it’s that Goodes has landed on the right side of history.

Adam Goodes is an Australian legend. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)Source:AFP

Goodes at an Indigenous Fashion Projects show in Sydney last week. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

The AFL realised it, albeit too late, when its 18 clubs issued an unreserved apology to Goodes in 2019, saying: “Adam, who represents so much that is good and unique about our game, was subject to treatment that drove him from football. The game did not do enough to stand with him, and call it out. Failure to call out racism and not standing up for one of our own let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present.”

It was a much-needed olive branch but Goodes declining what is the crowning moment in anyone’s footy career shows there’s still healing to be done.

How much of that is on the league and its clubs and how much is a journey Goodes needs to take on his own, only he knows.

But anyone who has a voice should keep on telling him we love you, we’re grateful for everything you did for our game, we’re deeply sorry about what happened to you and there will always be a place for you in our game — and its most exclusive clubs — whenever you’re ready to walk back in.

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