A Goodes look to Kardinia Park

Last week’s Footy Almanac email arrived despite black-spots and Fourth World internet connections. According to a dismayed J.T.H. the booing Adam Goodes saga inspired a 30% spike in hits to the Almanac website.

I wasn’t among the hitters. I had been switching off, and not just because of fluky internet connections. We still have radio and TV in this here gum-tree enclave. I was being knee jerk, turning off those mediums, sometimes making pre-emptive strikes before the Goodes verses Boo-ers discussion became too tabloid.

It seemed that everyone contributing revealed a prejudice of some form or another. Alan Jones and Caroline Wilson were like bookends. Academics were as jaundiced as those in the outer. Emotion was overriding intelligence. Between the idealising and the demonising where was the voice or reason? Even Radio National was giving blanket coverage and revealing its own capacity to simplify. Which of the many half-truths would win?

A week had passed since the contentious Sydney/West Coast game and the Sunday Age contained nearly a dozen articles referencing the booing issue, or being exclusively devoted to it.

But by then I had changed my position and was feeling that sometimes we need to have a stoush, get things off our chest to clear the air. Unlike many national debates, in this case, all views, the good, the bad the ugly, were given voice and the overwhelming positive response suggested that when that happens and push comes to shove we become a community.

In this context, I’ll offer a few observations that are by no means exhaustive, or in any particular order and will also likely contain prejudices, contradictions or simplifications of some form or another. Apologies for any duplication.

Teenage girl versus Goodes.

What started the booing? Maybe it wasn’t just she. Before the teenage girl’s taunt, Dermot Brereton, in true inimitable style had used his public forum to lambast Goodes for his tendency to slide into opponents feet-first. His comments had gained traction, as they usually do, but if he intended making a campaign of it the incident with the teenage fan might have stopped him, because it shifted the debate to one of racism and any continuation of his insinuating would be seen in that light. However, it had arguably planted a seed that contributed to the booing of him by Hawthorn supporters given they still see Brereton as one of their own and the Goodes incident he chose to highlight involved a Hawthorn player, Josh Gibson. If there was a Hawthorn home game against Sydney before the teenage-girl incident, and Hawk fans booed Goodes that could serve as proof. Of course, this doesn’t excuse the booing; just adds another possible reason for what sparked it. And who Brereton singles out, and why, says more about his defining flaw as a commentator than anything else.

The outer versus Goodes.

No doubt some of those booing Adam Goodes are motivated by race. Others are suffering tall poppy syndrome. And a percentage of fans simply go to a game to barrack against the opposition. I’ve never really understood it, but these glass-half-empty types were likely among the boo-ers too. Though venting your spleen at the footy has often been seen as an acceptable release of the week’s stresses. One Almanacker made a good point about the nanny state and how some fans feel they can’t do anything these days and so demand their right to boo. But in this case the booing has become systemic and got out of hand – the boo has a baa behind it.

Australia versus the rest of the world.

Possibly the weakest argument is the cultural cringe one: “what will the rest of the world think?” We should do what we believe is right regardless, and an overseas view will likely be even more filtered than ours so why put credence on the even less informed? It’s a twist on that morally bankrupt argument that says Australia shouldn’t do anything about climate change, even if we believe it’s a real threat, unless the rest of the world acts first. We either believe something is right or we don’t.

Haka versus spear-throw.

Does anyone making those comparisons know how people reacted the first time the Haka was performed on a sporting field? And in any case, sometimes the response by opposition rugby players has been unflattering, possibly because they felt the Haka hid gamesmanship behind the culture. Goodes and Jetta performing the spear-throwing gesture unexpectedly, and for motives the crowd were uncertain about, could explain some reactions. I felt at the time Goodes made the spear-throw gesture that if it became a regular feature of indigenous round people would warm to it, or at least accept it. By the way, here’s a link to an account when the haka was allegedly first performed on an international sporting field.


The media versus intelligent debate.

Other Almanackers have also made valid references to the media and how they stir up emotions, exploit issues and trivialise debate. Channel Seven, for instance, were quick to pounce on and highlight the spear-throwing gesture while covering the game, and tried to work in the angle that it was motivated by booing in the crowd, even though Adam Goodes denied that was behind his gesture.

Ulterior motives versus good intentions.

The media, politicians, actors, club chairmen have appropriated this issue for motives that are simultaneously well-intended and ulterior. One woman wrote into the Age saying she would deny her son’s wish to play Auskick because of the booing. I suspect if this matter hadn’t risen she probably would have found another reason. Why damn the whole for what some do?

Me versus me.

I’m inclined to disagree with the general assertion that Australians are racist. Which Australians? We come from so many different backgrounds that, without the clarification, it basically defeats, and confuses, the argument before it can be debated. Or is it automatically assumed that only Anglo Saxons can be racist because they are the majority?

We can sometimes be too quick to apply the racism tag – and the sexism one for that matter – and in the process risk trivialising serious examples of both. They are easy accusations to make and frequently made when evidence is, at best, circumstantial.

On the other hand, while the booing may seem insignificant to some, it has become widespread and Adam Goodes’ view (and that of the rest of the indigenous community) has to be respected and heeded. Sometimes there are many incidents leading up to a person or persons saying ‘enough is enough’. To argue against myself a little, maybe we are racist in a subtle way that makes it harder to deal with until something like this blows up.

Selwood versus Goodes.

I only mention Selwood because his name has frequently come up in juxtaposition to Goodes’ treatment. Contrary to what some say, Selwood is booed, and subjected to derision, though not on the Goodes scale. But similar to Goodes, Selwood was one of Brereton’s targets, and for a prolonged period. If you did a thesis on sheep-like behaviour you would find some correlation between the reaction to Selwood and Goodes, even though circumstances are vastly different due to the racism aspect.

The Cats versus Goodes.

I’m hoping Adam Goodes plays against Geelong this weekend, though part of me is also hoping it doesn’t become a distraction – an important game for the Moggies. Though, of course, it isn’t in the same league as reconciliation.

Goodesy is welcome to throw his symbolic spear.

Multicultural round would give it added dimension.

Cats fans at Kardinia Park aren’t usually obsessive boo-ers anyway, and I’m confident they’ll behave appropriately without needing to be told, even though they are being told. Slightly odd given that the typical observation is that Cats fans at KP are too quiet – to the point there is now a superfluous ground announcer providing running commentary and telling everyone when to cheer. Too much!

Hopefully, he isn’t overbearing on Saturday.

Though, if Goodesy gets a dodgy free kick in front of goal and a fan, or fans, instinctively boo for that reason how will the media react? Hopefully, we can still distinguish between one-off boos and systemic ones. Hopefully, there are no ironic boos or boos to spite being told not to boo.

Footy should be a celebration.

Of all the slogans, campaigns and opinions a simple word said it all – respect.

About Paul Spinks

I have writing published and performed in various mediums, but usually not enough of it to pay the rent. Had many jobs, travelled a lot, so I think this experience allows a broad perception of society. I'm not an academic, though did complete a BA as a mature-age student. Below are links to some published written pieces. https://newmatilda.com/2017/07/30/its-time-for-our-baby-democracy-to-walk/ https://meanjin.com.au/blog/the-elephant-in-the-chamber/ https://overland.org.au/2017/11/australias-workplace-laws-a-narrative-tragedy/ https://newmatilda.com/2019/05/16/the-green-blind-spot-on-australias-expanding-population/ https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/is-ashleigh-barty-the-saviour-australian-tennis-has-been-waiting-for-20200108-p53prl.html https://spinksytravelworld.com/pirate-of-padstow/ https://overland.org.au/2020/10/the-slow-death-of-a-public-institution/ https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/false-documents/fiction-paul-spinks/


  1. Cat from the Country says

    Great story.

    I don’ t boo players but have been known to boo myopic umpires for blatent mistakes.

    I also do not applaud the opposition unless they do something really incredible.
    Noone can make me cheer for any team other than my own!

    I will be very miffed if Goodes rains on Selwood’s parade

  2. I will never forget Denis Cometti’s reaction to the Goodes “spear-throw”.
    And not in a fond way.

  3. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Cat:
    Don’t worry – I’m not applying for sainthood.
    Have indulged in a boo or two too. Always justifiably of course :)
    I think we can share the parade; though not so enamoured about divvying up four points.

    As a post script: have moved from bush to beach where the weather is bleak, but the internet is fine.

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