AFL and Sydney Swans legend Adam Goodes has declined an offer to join the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
A two-time premiership winner and Brownlow medallist, and the Australian of the Year in 2014, Goodes was a unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame this year but turned down the induction.
According to a report in the Herald Sun, his reasons for declining the honour relate to the ugly way his career ended, when he was subjected to relentless, racially motivated booing for the final 18 months of his time in the game.
Much of Goodes’ appalling treatment in the final years of his career stems back to 2013, when he pointed out a young Collingwood fan to MCG security after she called the Swan an “ape” during a Friday night match which Sydney won.
After the match, Goodes encouraged the 13-year-old to be supported, saying it wasn’t her fault.
“I’ve had fantastic support over the past 24 hours,” Goodes said at the time
“I just hope that people give the 13-year-old girl the same sort of support because she needs it, her family needs it, and the people around them need it.
“It’s not a witch-hunt, I don’t want people to go after this young girl.
“We’ve just got to help educate society better so it doesn’t happen again.”
Shortly after that incident, then-Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, who had earlier apologised for Goodes after he’d been racially abused, suggested on radio that the Sydney star should be used to promote the musical King Kong. McGuire was not punished by the AFL for the remarks.
Goodes was subsequently booed loudly by opposition fans whenever he took possession of the ball – which intensified after he performed an Indigenous celebration during Indigenous round in 2015.
Despite pleas from all 18 AFL club captains at the time – released through an AFL Players’ Association open statement – the booing became more relentless throughout the year.
Ultimately, Goodes took a week off the game in 2015, before quietly announcing his retirement after Sydney’s semi-final loss to North Melbourne later that year.
The AFL eventually acknowledged they failed Goodes in their 2015 annual report, with CEO Gillon McLachlan stating that “By the time Adam retired, he had been subject to a level of crowd booing and behaviour that none of our players should ever face. As a game, we should have acted sooner and I am sorry we acted too slowly.”
McLachlan had been quoted earlier that year, however, saying “we can’t tell our supporters to behave”.
It is unclear what the game has done, if anything, in the years since to repair its relationship with the former Swan.
AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday morning in response to Goodes’ decision being reported.
“Adam had asked the AFL to wait before announcing his decision, which has now been made public separately,” Mr Goyder said.
“Adam was clear he did not want his decision to detract from the moment for the 2021 inductees.
“Adam remains a great champion and leader of our game who has given more to our sport than he received in return.
“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.
“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,’ Mr Goyder said
Similarly to knocking back his Hall of Fame induction, Goodes also declined to take a place in the lap of honour for retired players in 2015, and he reportedly no longer watches AFL matches.
He did, however, return to the SCG for a farewell lap – alongside fellow retiree Mike Pyke – at the 2016 Round 3 Sydney Derby.
Two documentaries, The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream, were released in 2019 which detailed Goodes’ final years as an AFL player, both of which are well worth watching.