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Michael O’Loughlin says Adam Goodes had ‘serious balls’ to call out racism

4 March 2016 No Comment

Sydney Swans legend Michael O’Loughlin says it took “some serious balls” for former teammate Adam Goodes to bring attention to the fact that he was racially vilified by a young Collingwood supporter in a match against the Magpies at the MCG in 2013.

In the final quarter of what was the first match of that year’s Indigenous Round, a teenage girl yelled the word “ape” towards Goodes from the front row.

The dual Brownlow medallist subsequently pointed her out and she was escorted from the ground.

He didn’t blame her, he just wanted her , and as a result many, many more Australians , to understand how it hurts.

O’Loughlin, who was commentating for Channel Seven on that Friday night, admired Goodes for the way he handled the situation and credited him for putting the issue of race relations back on the national agenda.

“While everyone wanted to have their say on it, I look on that incident and it strikes me that it took some serious balls to do what he did. To call out that casual racism that is just so prevalent in our society,” O’Loughlin said in the new book ‘Heartfelt Moments In Australian Rules Football’ in a chapter entitled ‘An Inspirational Journey with No. 37′.

“Clearly, racism is around when a young girl can say what she said and not understand. She learned from that.

“He did the right thing that night. He re-started a conversation we needed to have about racism, something that (St Kilda legend) Nicky Winmar had done 20 years earlier when he lifted his guernsey and pointed proudly to his skin.

“He was articulate, and too many people forget how compassionate he was to that girl. He didn’t blame her, he just wanted her , and as a result many, many more Australians , to understand how it hurts.”

O’Loughlin said the thing that hurt Goodes the most that night was the fact that someone so young could be capable of making a racial slur.

“After the game, Adam was visibly upset and I spoke to him and the most disappointing thing for him was that she was so young,” O’Loughlin said.

“If it was some bloke who was drunk, he probably wouldn’t have cared as much, but he just really felt for the young lady. He was genuinely upset that she was yelling out and didn’t understand.”

In retrospect, that night seemed to have acted as a catalyst for a torrent of vitriol and abuse directed towards Goodes which grew in size when he was named the Australian Of The Year in 2014 and culminated with almost weekly booing from opposition fans in his final season last year.

The 2005 premiership forward described Goodes’ last few years in the game as “terrible” and “heartbreaking” , particularly in round 17 last year against West Coast when the Perth crowd arguably ramped up the booing to unprecedented levels, leading to Goodes to sit out the Swans’ next match against Adelaide.

“When you have the courage to stand up for what you are passionate about, inevitably , unfortunately , people will try and cut you down,” O’Loughlin said.

“For me , to see him go through what he did in the latter part of his career , it’s really hard to watch and listen. Harder for Adam , obviously , but for me it has been terrible.

“The booing. The negative energy directed at Adam, most significantly in his final year, was heartbreaking. Watching the Swans’ round 17 game against West Coast in Perth on TV was probably the most emotional I’ve ever been with my kids, when my son James asked , ‘why are those people booing uncle (Adam)?’ It was really hard to explain.

“I spoke to Adam after that game and when he returned to Sydney. It was probably the toughest week I’ve had during our journey. I know he needed space to do what he needed to do. He needed to get away, and that meant I couldn’t be there to wrap my arms around him. It was hard.

“Would the 17-year-old kid who walked through the SCG doors be able to handle what he went through in 2015? No. But seeing his transition into a strong, proud, black, passionate leader has been inspiring.”

Ronny Lerner, The Age, March 4, 2016, Sport p 46.

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