McLachlan defends AFL in Goodes issue

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has defended his handling of the Adam Goodes controversy, saying he had to be careful with his language.

Goodes will return to Sydney training on Tuesday after a week off football.

The two-time Brownlow Medallist is likely to resume playing on Saturday night against Geelong at Simonds Stadium.

The AFL will also hold a breakfast in Melbourne on Tuesday to mark the league’s multicultural round.

There is growing criticism of McLachlan and the AFL Commission for their actions last week in the midst of the heated national debate around Goodes, crowd behaviour and racism.

The day after West Coast fans booed Goodes in Perth at the end of round 17 and his indigenous teammate Lewis Jetta performed a war dance at the crowd, McLachlan was guarded in his comments and said it was a complicated issue.

McLachlan said a day later in an AFL statement that it was impossible to separate the issue from race.

Last weekend, the AFL strongly backed Goodes with messages and gestures of support during round-18 matches.

“What’s happened over the course of the week is that everyone has played their role,” McLachlan said on Channel Nine’s Footy Classified.

“We took a highly combustible situation and I think we sit here today with a united industry.

“The next point of that is hopefully Adam coming and playing this weekend, hopefully respected and we go into a really mature discussion with racism.

“There’s a racist undertone, but I don’t believe everyone is racist.”

McLachlan said he had tried to speak to Goodes, but so far that had not happened.

The AFL boss said there were concerns last week that Goodes might not play again.

“I feel more confident today, but I can tell you last week, that was a real fear,” McLachlan said.

The AFL also released a statement on Monday, quoting chairman Mike Fitzpatrick as saying the commission is unanimous in supporting Goodes.

That comes after a media report claimed commission members’ views on the Goodes issue last week were divided.

“I’m not going to talk, obviously, about commission meetings,” McLachlan said.

“All I will say is that the commission is united and I don’t think anyone in there is, as I think it’s being asserted, said this is Adam Goodes’s problem.

“There is not a divided commission on this issue.”

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