Constant booing, a King Kong jibe, and being called an ape by a 13-year-old girl.
It’s these things, along with a preposterous wave of racism at the hands of the Australian media and AFL community, that drove Adam Goodes to retirement in 2015.
And now Australians have united to stand with Goodes, after reliving the end of his career through the documentary The Final Quarter, which was broadcast on Australian TV for the first time on Thursday night.
Shortly before the documentary’s premiere at a film festival last month, the AFL apologised unreservedly for its failure to call out the racism, admitting that its inaction “let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present”.
Australians heartbroken after The Final Quarter
Despite the knowledge that the documentary would be emotional, fans who tuned in took to Twitter afterwards to reveal they were heartbroken.
“Hearing the relentless booing of Adam Goodes was heartbreaking. We should all be ashamed we let it go on. I'm so sorry,” one person shared.
“I’m just watching the part where Adam Goodes celebrates his goal by doing a war cry and the commentators are slamming him and....I can’t comprehend this,” another wrote.
The composure Goodes showed in his presser immediately after the war dance controversy was amazing. Treated so badly by the community. We need to be so much better than that #TheFinalQuarter— Lee Gaskin (@Lee_Gaskin1) July 18, 2019
Director Ian Darling’s documentary was produced with archival footage of media coverage from 2013 to 2015.
The film seamlessly exposes the dark time in Australian sport, where Goodes faced racial vilification on and off the field.
There was a standing ovation after the sold-out world premiere, which confirmed that whether ‘deflated’ or ‘enlightened’, the audience was touched by the powerful documentary.
Adam Goodes 'emotional' after revisiting the racism
For Goodes, reliving those unforgettable years haunted by Eddie McGuire and Sam Newman’s unapologetic taunts was mentally draining, and understandably so.
“It was a really emotional experience,” director Ian Darling told Yahoo Lifestyle Australia when asked about Goodes’ reaction to the film when he watched it in December.
“I think putting Adam through that again was something I was very cautious and wary about.
“I needed to get a few of his close friends like Mickey O'Loughlin (former Sydney Swans player), Karen Mundine (CEO of Reconciliation Australia) and Tanya Hosch (AFL's general manager of inclusion and social policy) to see it first and they said, ‘No I think Adam will be ok with this’.”
Former Australian of the Year Goodes has used his position to raise awareness about Indigenous Australian communities and advocate the fight against racism.
He’s one hundred per cent on board with Darling’s intentions to educate, but the pain of the past still stings.
“We spoke afterwards and he was very humble and very grateful that we’ve made it and he could see what we were doing,” says Darling. “But he said at the time, ‘I’ve only got one screening in me and I think that was it’. It would’ve been too difficult to watch again.
“I just hope everyone watches the film with open hearts and is willing to just look at what happened over those three years and just consider whether or not we as a nation behaved fairly towards Adam,” says Darling.
He also hopes audiences will reflect on “what we need to do to ensure it never happens again”.
A difficult end for AFL great
It was back in May 2013 when Goodes called out a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter who called him an ape during the AFL’s Indigenous Round.
Security escorted the teenage out of the stadium, before Collingwood president Eddie McGuire apologised to Goodes on behalf of the club.
A week later, McGuire essentially made the same racial jibe when he referred to Goodes during a radio segment discussing the King Kong musical.
In 2014, two-time Brownlow Medal winner Goodes was named Australian of the Year in recognition of his work in fighting against racism.
The following year he was criticised for doing a war cry dance, a celebratory cultural gesture performed during the AFL Indigenous Round against Carlton, that conservator commentators branded ‘violent’ and ‘aggressive’.
The booing continued throughout 2015, particularly at Swans versus Hawthorn games, and in August 2015 Goodes took indefinite leave.
After a brief return to the game, he retired in September 2015.
It took the release of a documentary for the AFL to finally own up to its mistakes, four years too late.
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