Adam Goodes will have family and friends in the Geelong crowd supporting him on his AFL return when Sydney take on the Cats.
The dual Brownlow medallist took a week away from the game after being demoralised by relentless booing from opposing fans, a response the 2014 Australian of the Year believed was racially motivated.
“It will be exciting getting back to playing again,” Goodes said when he arrived in Melbourne ahead of Saturday night’s game.
Sydney fans will be well and truly outnumbered in a sea of blue and white at Simonds Stadium but Goodes says he will have some family and friends at the game.
“Geelong are a fantastic football club. It’s going to be a great challenge for the team and I’ve got no doubt they’ll have 28 or 30 thousand fans barracking hard for their team.”
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan wants all fans to collectively embrace – and not boo – Goodes, and is confident Geelong fans will show the Swan the respect he deserves.
“You can feel in a stadium when there’s a warmth towards a player and hopefully that’s what we hear,” he told ABC radio.
“I know that’s difficult and maybe challenging, but I just want the stadium collectively to embrace Adam back.
“It’s an important night for the industry – we’re looking for the faithful at (Simonds) to respond.”
The clash also marks Geelong captain Joel Selwood becoming the youngest-ever Cat to reach the 200-game AFL milestone.
Both team’s theme songs will be played before Geelong and Sydney players run through a joint banner carrying three messages: respect, Selwood’s achievement and Swan Luke Parker’s 100th game.