Rugby league superstar Johnathan Thurston says NRL crowds are far more progressive than AFL crowds when it comes to indigenous race relations.
Thurston spoke out on Thursday as the booing controversy surrounding AFL great Adam Goodes reaches fever pitch, dividing opinion amongst commentators and the Australian public.
“For many years the NRL has looked towards the AFL as the leader in sport in the country and I think on this issue the NRL is far beyond the AFL on this,” Thurston told the Triple M Grill Team.
“It’s very appalling that in this day and age, racism is still a part of sport and society.”
Thurston said that while he’d been booed before, he didn’t believe the boos were racially charged.
“I can’t say I’ve personally been racially taunted on the field by opposition fans.
“I’ve played at grounds where I’ve been booed, but in no way have I felt that they’ve racially booed me.”
Thurston, who is planning to perform an indigenous war dance if he scores for North Queensland as a show of solidarity with Goodes, is most concerned about Goodes’ mental well-being.
“We’ve got to remember this is starting to effect him mentally now and this is where we need to be supportive of him and stand for his mental welfare at the moment,” he said.
“He feels as though the boos are racially (motivated) towards him, that’s the difference… if he was going down there for a free kick or trying to milk a penalty… people boo and I still think there’s room for that in the game.
“(But) Goodes thinks that these boos are racially towards him.”
“Paul Gallen, everytime he plays in Queensland he gets heavily booed… if he came out and said that he feels that that is racially booing him, I’d urge our fans to stop that.”