The phrase ‘darkest day in Australian sport’ is one which is used more often than it should be. In the past it has been used in relation to allegations that Australia’s top sporting codes were rife with increasing use of performance enhancing drugs. It was also used in reference to the Melbourne Storm salary cap breaches as revealed in 2010.
Despite being a Parramatta Eels supporter and feeling personally impacted by the Melbourne Storm salary cap breaches, the way I felt in 2010 is nothing compared to the sadness, embarrassment and disappointment I have felt this week following what I feel has been one of the darkest periods in Australian sport. I am, of course, referring to the current situation surrounding Adam Goodes.
There is no need to outline what has happened. Our shame has been paraded all week in both the Australian and the global press and all because an Indigenous man, a true ornament of the AFL and Australian society has decided to celebrate, embrace and stand up for his Aboriginality. Something he should be embraced for rather than be ridiculed as he has been in recent weeks.
I do not think that everyone who has ever booed Adam Goodes is a racist. Goodes can certainly be accused of being a player who has not been a favourite of opposition clubs. However, following the events of the last couple of months, particularly following his celebration during Indigenous Round, the issue and how Goodes has felt about it has been brought to the attention of the Australian public and AFL supporters have continued to boo Adam Goodes. No other player is booed the way Adam Goodes is booed – despite their niggly tactics on the field, despite poor off field behaviour and despite defection to other clubs. There is no explanation for it other than his Aboriginality.
For Goodes to feel like the ridicule and the booing has gotten so out of hand that he has had to stand down has made me feel sick to my stomach.
In circumstances like this I am constantly reminded of the power of sport. Whilst, as in this situation, it has brought issues of racism to the fore and resulted in tremendous disappointment and shame for many in the Australian public, I was reminded yesterday about the power of sport to bind people together in a way which makes me proud.
I turn to the Rugby league.
The NRL is often described by people in the Australian community as a sport for louts, for the working class, for boofheads, for bogans. It is the sport that is described as being ‘so far’ behind the other codes in terms of the way the players behave both on and off the field. Our players are described as uncouth, violent and stupid. We are often held under the microscope and compared to the AFL and Rugby Union which are seen as codes where incidences of domestic violence and criminal offences do not occur (this is of course incorrect).
However, for all the criticisms which can be levelled at rugby league, racism as we have witnessed in the past couple of weeks, is not one of them.
Rugby league as a sport is not perfect, but it is one where I feel our Indigenous players are respected, adored and revered. An incident like this one surrounding Goodes has never happened to this magnitude in the NRL.
I am always a proud rugby league supporter but yesterday I was probably the proudest I have ever been and was truly humbled to read about the way the NRL is responding towards the treatment of Adam Goodes this week.
Indigenous Round is not for another week, but keep your eyes out during this weekend’s game as our Indigenous rugby league players rally together to celebrate their culture in a show of support for Adam Goodes.
Our players have been practicing throughout the week and are looking forward to sharing their culture and history with Australia this weekend as their respective teams take the field.
And I for one have never wished or hoped for Greg Inglis to score a try more than tomorrow afternoon… his goanna will be received in a way it has never been received before.
Here at Ladies who League, we stand with Adam Goodes.