A Recent History of Booing

by David Fordyce


The recent history of booing in the AFL started in Rd 20 in 2012 at Subiaco. It is no surprise that Subiaco is again centre stage in a story about ugly booing, because no-one at Subiaco has shown any leadership on it.

In Rd 20 in 2012, Geelong played West Coast at Subiaco in front of 38,000 and West Coast won by five points, 16.6.102 to 15.7.97. Tom Hawkins hit his head in a marking contest just before quarter time and was knocked unconscious and carried off on a stretcher in a neck brace. Hawkins, the club doctors and the officials carrying him on the stretcher were abused carrying him off the ground, and up the players’ race.

Chris Scott, who has been an assistant coach at Subiaco, said the behaviour of the fans was disgraceful and he asked if the ground was a fit place to bring children. The abuse was ongoing throughout the game.

The WA shadow sport minister Mick Murray said WA fans’ behaviour had become worse in recent years. He said “I think the clubs have got to take strong steps and eliminate what is becoming a regular occurrence.” But nothing was done about it and the ugly mob mentality was let out of the bottle.

2013 was the year that Adam Goodes pointed out racist comments from the crowd in Indigenous Round Rd 9 v Collingwood). Adam wasn’t booed in in 2013, but many other players were.

In Rd 1 in 2013, Geelong played Hawthorn at the MCG in front of 76,000. The Cats won by seven points, 13.15.93 to 12.14.86, and the booing from Hawthorn fans every time Selwood and Hawkins got the ball was unrelenting. The Hawthorn crowd was hungry (they played in the grand final in 2013) and following the lead from Subiaco, Hawkins was booed the whole game. This was the ‘unsociable Hawks’ which their leaders encourage. They didn’t like Selwood because he ducked and they didn’t like Hawkins because he went to a private school, which is ironic considering Hawthorn is in the eastern suburbs.

In Rd 9 in 2013, it was Indigenous Round and Sydney played Collingwood at the MCG in front of 63,000 , and Sydney won easily 15.12.102 to 8.7.55. Goodes pointed out the racist comments during the game, and he was widely praised for this. Everyone except Eddie McGuire understood that what was said to Goodes was wrong.

In Rd 14 in 2013, Essendon played West Coast at Subiaco in front of 36,000. Jobe Watson had given an interview where he admitted he had been injected, and the crowd booed him loudly for the whole game. Essendon won by seven points, 15.8.98 to 13.13.91 kicking five goals to one in the last quarter, and Watson was best on ground. He was drained afterwards from the unrelenting booing. This was the loudest booing on record.

In Rd 16 in 2013, St Kilda played Carlton at Docklands in front of 31,000 and Steven Milne was booed by Carlton fans every time he had the ball. Carlton won 16.14.100 to 10.14.74. Milne was getting booed because he had a court case coming up for a charge that was dismissed by the court and the charge was not upheld.

There had been an incident with Milne in Rd 3 in 2010 when St Kilda played Collingwood at Docklands in front of 50,000 and St Kilda beat Collingwood 10.9.69 to 4.17.41 and Mick Malthouse and Paul Licuria were abusive to Milne at the three-quarter time huddle. The Pies knew their man as they met and beat the Saints in the 2010 Grand Final, with Milne featuring prominently in the bounce of the ball in the last minutes of the first drawn GF.

In Rd 18 in 2013, St Kilda played at Geelong in front of 27,000 but there was no booing of Milne because this game became the Casey Tutungi tribute game. The St Kilda players were very involved in this, because a number of them had played with Casey, so the whole tone was one of respect.

In Rd 20 in 2013, Port Adelaide played at Geelong in front of 25,000. Geelong won 20.9.129 to 16.8.104 but Hawkins, who was carrying a back injury, was jeered by his own Geelong fans. The disease was catching. Chris Scott was highly unimpressed.

Throughout 2013, Goodes was praised for his stand. He was booed briefly at times, if the crowd thought he was staging for a free kick or being too rough. Across his career he has received 353 free kicks and given away 404 so he gives more than he gets. A lot of players play for frees, like Lindsay Thomas, or Alan Christensen. Christensen wasn’t booed at Geelong and they have their own Steve Johnson who is always getting reported.

In 2014 Goodes was made Australian of the Year, and then in 2015 things changed for him.

In Rd 6 in 2015, Sydney played Melbourne at the MCG in front of 27,000 but nothing out of the ordinary happened.

In Rd 7 in 2015, Sydney played Geelong at ANZ in front of 28,000, and a number of Canberra Cats were in the cheer squad. There were no comments towards Goodes. It wasn’t on the agenda at all. The Cats were competitive till Mitch Duncan went off in the third quarter with a broken foot.

In Rd 8 in 2015, Sydney played Hawthorn at the MCG in front of 63,000 and suddenly there was sustained and unrelenting booing of Goodes. Sydney won the game by four points, 11.7.63 to 9.15.69. Caroline Wilson wrote the following after the Hawthorn game in an article titled “Hawks missed chance to stop Goodes boos”.

“At half-time Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham addressed the unsavoury crowd behaviour with AFL executive Mark Evans. …Hawthorn chairman Andrew Newbold is certain that the reason has nothing to do with racism. Sydney would beg to differ.

Goodes, in the week leading up to indigenous round and the Swans’ Indigenous Round clash with Carlton, has asked his club to stay silent on the subject.

But the tall poppy syndrome combined with racial overtones has been a toxic mix. To suggest the current treatment of Goodes is largely due to his alleged “staging” for free kicks is laughable.

On Tuesday the Hawks launched a five-year $1 million indigenous partnership with the health company Epic with chairman Newbold and his chief executive Stuart Fox centre stage with the club’s five indigenous players. It did not occur to the club to ask its fans to put a stop to the booing of Adam Goodes.

Someone has to take the lead and stop the shameful booing of an AFL great.”

In Rd 9 in 2015, the next week, it was Indigenous Round and Sydney played Carlton at the SCG in front of 32,000. Sydney won by 10 goals, 19.8.122 to 9.8.62 and the Blues fans booed Goodes in a sustained manner while he was taking a simple set shot for goal. Goodes did his boomerang dance because he had had enough of the abuse.

In Rd 17 in 2015, Sydney played West Coast in front of 39,000 at Subiaco and West Coast won 15.13.103 to 7.9.51. Goodes was booed the whole game and then Lewis Jetta did his dance after being booed in a very prolonged and intense way, while taking a set shot for goal.

The same names keep popping up in the history above. If you let the genie out of the bottle, where will it run next? Who will be the next target? Tom Hawkins when he’s unconscious? Jobe Watson when he’s honest? Adam Goodes when he reacts to being told to get back in his cage?

Thank goodness Brian Cook, Chris Scott and Colin Carter are taking leadership in this.

Goodes might have been mistaken for taking the initial sustained booing from Hawthorn as racist, but it has certainly become racism. The baying mob senses an opposition star player who might be vulnerable for whatever reason (Hawkins, Milne, Watson, Goodes) and goes after them.

A significant moment in this could be Michael Walters’ dance at Subiaco in Rd 18, doing an indigenous celebration to his home crowd. That might be a turning point at Subiaco. But it also needs leadership from some of the bigger clubs and the AFL. Not many of them have showed any leadership so far.



  1. David

    Good summary and thanks, but found the explanation of the booing of Hawkins, Rd 1, 2013 a bit of s stretch. If memory serves, Xavier Ellis went to school with Hawkins, and Rioli is Scotch boy, Spangher a Xavier boy, etc, so the Private school bashing doesn’t hold up. If it did, then Jobe Watson gets booed, Ted Richards and Nick Smith along with Goodes, even Judd, Luke Ball etc


  2. jan courtin says

    Just a small error in the above report.
    “In Rd 8 in 2015, Sydney played Hawthorn at the MCG in front of 63,000 and suddenly there was sustained and unrelenting booing of Goodes. Hawthorn won the game by four points, 11.7.63 to 9.15.69. ”

    This should read ……Sydney won the game by four points 11.7.73 to 9.15.69

  3. David, I noticed the booing during Sydney’s match against the Hawks.
    It surprised me.
    I remember thinking why?
    Then it grew from there.
    I know North Melbourne asked their supporters not to boo Goodes before their round 11 clash, but he was booed. It disappointed me.
    I am stunned the booing infiltrated football like it did..
    It was shocking. I don’t want to hear it…

  4. Enjoyed the article, thanks David.
    Could it be the booing of Tom Hawkins in Round 1 2013 by Hawthorn fans was also
    a consequence of round 19 2012 when Tom kicked the winning goal against Hawthorn.
    The no1’s & no2’s are sore losers.

    Glad you mentioned Subiaco. Hooliganism is rampant there. The 70’s live on.

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