Adam Goodes wasn’t playing, but the presence of the Swans AFL star was inescapable on Saturday at the SCG.
He was nowhere to be seen, but seemed ubiquitous as references to him were everywhere, as the Swans hosted the Crows.
From Swans chairman Andrew Pridham in his pre-match address, describing the events of the past week in which Goodes chose to take a break from the game following persistent vilification by opposing fans, to moments before and during the game.
Many banners at the ground bore messages of support for Goodes, mentioning him by name or guernsey number.
A video package featuring Goodes played in the last 60 seconds before the first bounce, produced loud cheers from Sydney supporters, with Adelaide fans showing their support by waving an indigenous flag.
Once the game started, it took just 54 seconds for an indigenous celebration.
Lewis Jetta, who performed a war dance in support of Goodes after kicking a goal against West Coast last Sunday, did another celebratory dance after splitting the posts on the run from 52 metres.
The Swans’ other indigenous star Lance Franklin goaled from each of his first three kicks in the first half, but was content with a more-conventional arm raised-type celebration.
One Sydney player who unsurprisingly drew some boos from Adelaide fans was former Crow Kurt Tippett, who kicked three first-quarter goals in his first appearance against his old club.
Acknowledging Goodes’ guernsey number of 37, Sydney fans stood and cheered at the seven-minute mark of the third quarter.
Before the game, Pridham described Goodes as a great leader, educator and philanthropist and said Sydney’s games’ record holder had been subjected to relentless booing because he was Aboriginal and had the courage to stand and speak about matters close to his heart.
He compared Goodes’ stand to that of legendary American civil rights activist Rosa Parkes and slammed media pundits who refused to view the booing of the Sydney star as racism.
“I believe that the events of the last week are a seminal moment in our history – perhaps it was a moment that our nation needed to have,” Pridham said.
“Adam did not choose any of this to happen to him.”
“Adam did not choose to be called an ape.
“Adam could not analyse in a matter of seconds whether the person who called him that was 13 years old; he couldn’t analyse in seconds that the security guards may have been overzealous in her ejection; he couldn’t analyse her family background.
“Adam did not choose to be Australian of the Year.
“His football brilliance has thrust him into the national spotlight.
“Adam has achieved great things and today we have seen he has shaken the nation’s conscience.
“Some find his message and actions confronting.
“The issue of racism is so deep-seated, nothing short of confronting can change the tide of generations of prejudice – some disgraceful media commentary from people of some profile either seeking ratings or relevance; taking the contrary view for the sake of it even though the contrary argument is hopelessly outdated and flawed.”