Adam Goodes will be the most notable of absentees from the field of play this weekend, but rival AFL clubs and star players from another code have joined in a massive show of support for the vilified Sydney champion.
Richmond and the Western Bulldogs will wear their indigenous-themed guernseys in big matches against Hawthorn and Essendon to show their backing for the dual Brownlow medallist, who won’t play against Adelaide on Saturday after enduring several weeks of relentless booing from opposing fans.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick and his Melbourne, Port Adelaide and West Coast counterparts all spoke of their support for Goodes on Thursday, as did North Queensland NRL great Johnathan Thurston, who has pledged to do an indigenous war dance if he crosses the try-line against Canberra.
Hardwick, who has played and coached against Goodes, backed the action taken by the Tigers.
“The fact of the matter is that it’s bullying at best and racism at worst,” Hardwick said of the booing of Goodes.
“We just wanted to throw our support (behind Adam). It’s not something the AFL community wants to see – one of the greats of our game not playing because of this impact.
“Our players have made a stand and want to support Goodesy in this way.”
Melbourne’s Paul Roos, who previously coached Goodes at Sydney, said one of the few positives to come out of the Goodes saga is the “100 per cent” support he had received from the AFL industry.
That support has crossed codes, with NRL CEO Dave Smith backing Thurston’s initiative and further backing from another Kangaroos superstar, Greg Inglis.
It has not gone unnoticed at the Swans.
“It’s great to see the solidarity across the whole (AFL) competition and in other sports,” Swans’ coach John Longmire said.
“It means a lot and importantly it means a lot to Adam.”
Sydney co-captains Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh gave insights into how the racial vilification of Goodes had hurt the player and his Swans teammates.
“It’s affecting him, it’s affecting our playing group because we’re seeing a mate genuinely hurting through this,” said Jack.
“We’ve lost two in a row and we need to get back and play some good footy, so I think that the best way the playing group can respond to this is by coming out and playing really well on the weekend.”
Both co-captains and Longmire felt Goodes would probably resume playing, perhaps as soon as the following week against Geelong, rather than retire.
McVeigh said there had been no discussions amongst the Swans this weekend about avoiding war dance goal celebrations like the one from Lewis Jetta last Sunday.
“There will be no instructions, we will be free to do whatever we want to do out there,” McVeigh said.
Sydney players and officials gave short shrift to comments from conservative pundits and some past players who have said Goodes is trying to play the victim.
“There are commentators who make those types of comments and I think they constantly play the race card in a lot of things they say,” Swans’ chief executive Andrew Ireland said.
He denied the booers were having a win by Goodes not playing this weekend.
“I think Adam needs the space and hopefully with that space he’ll be able to come back and play some really good football at the back end of the season,” Ireland said.