AFL optimistic for Goodes reception

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan is optimistic about how Adam Goodes will be received if he returns to playing this weekend.

Goodes will return to training on Tuesday afternoon after having a week off from the game.

There is confidence he will be in Sydney’s team for the Saturday night match against the Cats at Simonds Stadium.

The issue of opposition fans booing Goodes and concerns about a racist element in the abuse came to a head after Sydney’s loss to West Coast in Perth two weekends ago.

That prompted a heated national debate about the issue.

There was widespread support for Goodes at last weekend’s matches.

“I’m looking forward to Adam coming back and playing,” McLachlan said.

“I’m looking forward to the people of Geelong, the supporters of Geelong and the Sydney supporters wrapping their arms around him.

“That’s been an emphatic statement over the last week.

“From where we were a week ago to where we are now, and the way our industry has been able to navigate this … I’m really optimistic about the way Adam is going to be received this weekend.”

He also called on Cats fans to take note of the support for Goodes last weekend across the league.

“We had an extraordinary coming together of our industry last weekend and hopefully the Geelong crowd respects and continues that,” he said.

While the league is rapt about the support for Goodes, there is growing criticism of how the AFL hierarchy has handled the controversy.

A week ago, McLachlan was initially cautious when asked if racism was involved.

And AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick only released a statement about Goodes on Monday night.

Fitzpatrick’s comments followed a media report that the commission had divided opinions on the issue.

He and McLachlan are insistent that Goodes has unanimous support from the commission.

“We have a unified commission,” McLachlan said.

“In an issue like this, you’re going to have lots of different views.

“All I can talk to is (that) over the course of the week, when we’ve taken a whole series of different views and diverse perspective, we sit here as an industry united.

“(We are) clear about the messaging, clear about our view on this issue.”

McLachlan would not be drawn on why it took Fitzpatrick a week to make his statement.

“Mike made the statement he wanted to make about how he views this issue,” McLachlan said.

McLachlan was speaking at Tuesday morning’s launch of the AFL multicultural-themed round this weekend.

“We have a massive opportunity to make a great statement again this weekend,” he said.

But McLachlan admitted the AFL has to ground to make up on showing respect for all players.

“We’ve had a clear mandate from our industry now that there’s a zero tolerance to racism,” he said.

“There’s a clear mandate that the treatment of Adam Goodes has been unacceptable and we have to get that respect back in our game.

“We have to embrace all of our players.

“It’s been a complicated week, but where we’ve gotten to over the last seven days is an extraordinary statement of our industry.”

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