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The Final Quarter: A timely reminder of Adam Goodes’ integrity and tenacity

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20th July, 2019
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There’s been an ongoing debate in my house about whether the UK or Australia is more messed up.

With the seemingly unending farce that is Brexit and Boris Johnson looking set to become Prime Minister, I’ve got decent ammunition against my wife, who is from Yorkshire.

As for The Boss’ best lines? She tends to point to our country’s shameful history with regards to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

After sitting down to watch The Final Quarter on Thursday night, I had to concede defeat. I don’t think it much matters whether Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Nigel Farage or Charlie Chalk ends up in Ten Downing Street this coming week.

I was on board for Ian Darling’s documentary from the start, although The Boss didn’t take a seat until about half-hour in – right around the time Eddie McGuire was making his infamous “ape” comments.

“Inne the fella from Ooo Wants te’be Millionaire?” she asked.

“Why’s he on’is?”

I gave a brief rundown of Eddie’s history and standing in the game of AFL, and about the pivotal role he had played only a week earlier in the film timeline in the incident between Adam Goodes and the 13-year-old Collingwood supporter.

From there, Eddie continued to pop up. And while I’ll concede it’s heavily edited footage over a three-year period of a man who seems to spend more time in front of a camera than he does inhaling air, the Magpies president did not come across well.

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Eddie McGuire Collingwood Magpies AFL 2015

(AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

It got to the point that when McGuire expressed his distaste for Goodes’ war dance during the 2015 Indigenous round, The Boss could no longer control herself:

“Oh shoooot oooop! Can you believe this fella? He shouldna be allowed te talk on television!”

I was taken aback by it, too. Because while Eddie is an AFL pundit and is paid to have an opinion, after his King Kong gaffe – sorry, “slip of the tongue” – he really should have recused himself with regards to ever commenting on Goodes, unless it was strictly a football matter.

Apart from Eddie, what I did notice throughout The Final Quarter was that while some of the headlines that flashed across the screen – calling Goodes a “pillock” and accusing him of being racist – were pretty well all written by the same two people: Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt.

As for those who gave voice on air to their negative opinions regarding the Swans champion, it was more or less the same select few: Bolt (again), Alan Jones and Sam Newman.

Honestly, by wheeling out Australia’s cheapest outrage merchants, I’d almost say the director was staging for free kicks.

Except it wasn’t the opinions of these notorious, noxious shit-stirrers that created a national debate – and, indeed, gave Darling a mandate to create an entire film about Goodes’ last years as a footy player.

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No, that would be because of the booing.

It started in earnest long after Goodes called out the young Pies supporter in the 2013 Indigenous Round – effectively ending the argument that that particular incident was the cause of the ridicule – and continued, sadly, until the last game of Goodes’ career.

It also occurred any time the two-time Brownlow Medallist touched the ball, so suggestions it was a direct response to his occasional acting were similarly wide of the mark.

Obviously, booing itself is not inherently racist.

If an Aussie footy player of any code goes all Neymar and dives to the ground clutching his everywhere-because-those-are-all-the-places-it-hurts, paying fans are within their right to give him a serve from the stands. It’s just not something we as a nation of sporting fans will cop.

But when a guy takes a spectacular mark and lines up his kick at goal to a chorus of boos ringing out across the stadium, well, that’s something we as a nation of sporting fans should not have copped either.

Particularly when it goes on for years.

Still not convinced the booing of Goodes was racist? How about the fact the AFL and all 18 clubs admitted as much earlier this year in an official apology.

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“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,” the statement read.

“We apologise unreservedly for our failures during this period.

“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.”

Adam Goodes looks on

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

If there was a shining beacon in a film about an incident of national shame, it’s that The Final Quarter is a reminder of what a marvellous ambassador Adam Goodes was and is – for his game, his people and all Australians.

I’d likely miss something of note if I tried to rattle off his multitude of achievements, so here’s how his club summed it up earlier this year when Goodes was inducted to the Swans’ Hall of Fame and awarded Bloods Legend status.

“Over a career spanning 18 years, Goodes played a club-record 372 games, kicked 464 goals, claimed two Brownlow Medals, won two premierships, collected three Bob Skilton Medals, earned four All-Australian blazers, was a three-time club-leading goal-kicker, took out an AFL Rising Star honour, was named in the Indigenous Team of the Century and was the 2014 Australian of the Year.”

That’s two decades deserving of a documentary in themselves. However this film, by necessity, focused on most of the parts of Goodes’ illustrious career he’d likely prefer were footnotes.

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Yet throughout it all – even in the moments you could see he was frustrated by the circumstances being thrust upon him time and again – Goodes maintained his composure and was an eloquent, thoughtful and forgiving human being.

His handling of the incident with the young Collingwood supporter, in particular, was a masterclass. Goodes removed any blame from the teenage girl who called him an ape and tried to turn the ugly affair into a teaching moment – both for her and us as a nation.

And people said it was the reason they booed him? You dicks.

So at around 9.30pm on Thursday night, I put the cue in the rack. It doesn’t really matter if the Poms don’t want to be part of Europe, and whoever is their next PM will suffer the same fate as all politicians – eventually, someone else takes their job.

Yet thousands of people spent years belittling a proud Aboriginal man for being a proud Aboriginal man, until he quit playing the game he loved – in 2015!

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That was less than four years ago! I’ve got pairs of socks that are older and stink less than that fact.

My wife’s response was something far classier than my ridiculing of her Northern accent (she actually sounds heaps Aussie these days, which her mates in York do not let her forget).

“Do you think that when our child grows up, they’ll look back on this and be completely bewildered by it? Like the way we think of apartheid?”

With a man of Adam Goodes’ class and courage at the forefront, I’d like to believe so.