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The Final Quarter: An opportunity for education and empowerment

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Expert
21st July, 2019
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On Thursday night, the AFL world finally faced a reality it had been avoiding for many years.

The country watched the premiere of The Final Quarter documentary and relived the deterioration of Sydney Swans and AFL star Adam Goodes.

Goodes is a proud Indigenous man and one of the greatest players to grace the game.

He’s a dual Brownlow Medallist, two-time premiership player, triple best-and-fairest winner and four-time All Australian just to name a few of his accolades.

I watched the 75-minute documentary in sadness and discomfort, but in the back of my mind I knew it was vital viewing.

It was both an insight into the treatment of Adam Goodes and an education of the reality faced by so many minority groups across the world everyday.

There was overwhelming feedback to the documentary with everyone on social media desperate to have their opinion heard.

And unfortunately, many have missed the mark once again.

Much of the post-premiere discussion surrounded the media’s commentary during this period of time. Many asked whose reputation was hit the worst?

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Was it Collingwood president Eddie McGuire? Or former Footy Show panellist Sam Newman? Maybe the trio of Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones?

It actually doesn’t matter.

Once again we missed the opportunity to discuss Goodes’ wellbeing and what we as a nation and a sporting community can do to continue his efforts fighting racism.

For so many years, the AFL’s answer to the treatment of Adam Goodes has been to apologise and regret not acting sooner, but they didn’t do enough to try and eliminate racism.

Adam Goodes

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It’s incredible for the AFL to pay tribute to the Indigenous community through dedicated rounds and ceremonies, but that may not be enough of a solution to help solve the problem.

The solution is through education.

And the answer to that is through The Final Quarter documentary.

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In case we didn’t think we had the right tools before, we now have a powerful piece to educate society about racism, what it is, how it can affect people and how we can stop it.

Adam Goodes was simply trying to educate us all along by speaking out.

People just didn’t want to listen.

Over the last few days many people have owned up to booing Goodes during the 2014 and 2015 seasons but ‘not because they’re racist’.

But because he was a ‘sook’ and ‘played for free kicks’.

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Is that really all, though? Because I don’t hear Geelong captain Joel Selwood being booed relentlessly every time he goes near the ball despite many believing he ducks for free kicks.

I don’t see Richmond defender Alex Rance being tormented every time he flops.

Not even former North Melbourne forward Lindsay Thomas was subjected to this kind of treatment week in, week out.

The irony is that Adam Goodes wasn’t actually awarded an abundance of free kicks.

It was stated in the documentary that to the halfway point in 2015, Goodes had only received 11 free kicks – over 160 players had received more.

Despite what some have been led to believe, the booing was fuelled with hatred.

Period.

No one summed it up better at the time than Richmond coach Damien Hardwick: “It’s bullying at best and it’s racism at worst.”

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But how was it racist?

Well, Goodes had a voice and some people didn’t like it, so they did their best to shut him down.

Some members of society still cannot accept when a minority – a person or a group – gains a voice and uses it to advocate for acceptance.

Those supporting Goodes and his voice applauded the work he was doing.

But those who felt threatened by his voice and call for acceptance spun the narrative and accused him of being divisive.

Adam Goodes looks on

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

It was a similar story for St Kilda legend Nicky Winmar.

His now famous stance against racism was first met with boos, abuse, spitting and trash thrown at him, simply for trying to speak out.

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In Goodes’ case, the line between bullying booing and racist booing was drawn in Round 18, 2015.

That was the week Goodes stepped away from the game and many of his team-mates and loved ones spoke out about the effect it was having on him.

“Emotionally it’s having an effect on him,” mum Lisa May Goodes told the media.

Sydney midfielder Kieren Jack said Goodes was “genuinely struggling” with the treatment of him and that the booing was “really getting to him”.

The response to his absence by Swans and Crows supporters at the SCG was absolutely outstanding.

The players, coaches and fans from both sides put on a united front to support Goodes.

The cheers from the crowd at the seventh minute of the third quarter deafened any booing that had taken place in the weeks before.

But unfortunately it is the booing that’ll be remembered.

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It drove one of the greatest players in the game’s history to surrender at the hands of hatred.

After the premiere of The Final Quarter, the Australian public have been left with a choice – an opportunity for redemption.

We cannot erase the past.

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Each individual must live with their own actions, no matter how much or how little they impacted Goodes at the time.

But there’s now an opportunity to educate Australians today and in the future about racism, and hopefully in time, we can put it to an end.

This is what Goodes was trying to do all along.

People didn’t want to listen then, but it’s time to listen and act now.

It’s our time to change the narrative surrounding Adam Goodes – like we did with Nicky Winmar – and help his legacy live on for future stars of the game.

It’s our time to let empowerment and equality lead the conversation.

And it’s time for the right voices to finally be heard.