Australian Football is an insular sport: thoughts on the Adam Goodes discussion from an observer Up North

by J.J. Leahy


The controversy that appears to have arisen around Adam Goodes seems to me to have a number of threads.

There are the undertones of racism that exist among some. It is all right to applaud indigenous players as long as they remain entertainers/sportspeople. However, if they seek to do anything construed as political, it draws criticism from a certain element of the community and some of the rich and powerful.

To draw a parallel, the political actions and views of David Pocock in Rugby drew criticism from certain Rugby circles, “the Liberal Party at play”, who stuff up the game especially in Sydney. There are some who don’t want Pocock back in the Australian side let alone as captain despite the fact that he is a world class player.

We don’t want to upset the big end of town who are major sponsors, especially the miners and the financial institutions.

It is not all that long ago that the deeds of Nicky Winmar and Michael Long drew criticism from the types who are so upset about Adam Goodes today.

Australian football in the southern states is very insular. It is not like it is in Queensland where all codes of football have been played and watched in reasonable numbers for a long time. Australian Football is also very tribal, even more than League or Union. Perhaps this is because, in these codes, there are higher levels like State of Origin and Test Matches and World Cups.

There are people in those states who have no idea of the difference between Union and League. I know people who have never watched a whole match of either code.

There a lot more darker skinned people in both junior and senior League/Union teams than in Australian football.

Which brings me to Adam Goodes “War Cry”. There was a bloke on the ABC this morning who explained how it came about. He took a team of indigenous teenagers to Tonga to play a local side there. The local lads performed their “war cry/dance”. The Australian boys were impressed and developed their own involving a number of languages and influences. Recently, they taught this to Adam Goodes.

To me, it is a similar expression to that of Greg Inglis with “the goanna” or Ben Tune with his “plane landing” when he scored a try for the Reds/Wallabies or sundry Australian cricketers jumping in the air and kissing the crest on their helmets when they score a ton.

I know Goodes is on his last legs, but I hope he kicks a few more goals.


John Leahy  (Cricket, Rugby Union and Rugby League devotee who likes seeing non-Melbourne teams win in the AFL)


  1. Grant Fraser says

    I am disappointed that people have found his performance to be worthy of negative comment. Our footballers are, after all, entertainers. Then again I loved it when my all time favourite – the one true Hawks #23 of recent times, Dermott – did “the strut” only to find himself admonished and told not to repeat it. Lighten up folks.

  2. Muz from Queensland says

    I was in Melbourne last Friday and was listening to Tim Watson and Andy Maher rip into Caroline Wilson for daring to suggest that the booing of Goodes (prior to the war cry) had absolutely nothing to do with racism. They were encouraging people to call in and tell their stories about the boos being only because he was a “stager” and a “dirty player”. I thought Watson was better than that … even if some … even if most were booing because of some indiscretion from years ago … they (Maher and Watson) failed to acknowledge the obvious … that it sounded like racism, felt like racism, smelt like racism … You only have to listen to pub banter to know that many were peeved at Goodes’s gong as Australian of The Year … and they were more peeved when he had the audacity to speak out about how far we are from any sort of equality …

    JJ is right about rugby league and racism … they are along way ahead of Australian Rules … a quarter of the Australian Kangaroos are Indigenous …

    Over 30% of the NRL are Polynesian …

    The AFL spruiks diversity … but it is light years from cracking the working class, migrant communities (GWS!!) and the indigenous populations of Queensland and New South Wales …

    Watson and Maher and the Victorian media that drives some of the AFL agenda embody a Victorian-centric white male hegemony that hold Australian Rules back from being truly national game …

    Have a look at the AFL Commissioners over the last 15 years … Sam Mostyn excellent … the rest are all cut from the same cloth … no one from Queensland … no Indigenous commissioners … no one who isn’t white, middle class and wealthy …

  3. Muz: “Watson and Maher and the Victorian media that drives some of the AFL agenda embody a Victorian-centric white male hegemony that hold Australian Rules back from being truly national game …” and much much more

  4. Footy is a sport, not a cultural festival. Surely I’m not the only one who finds the haka a ridiculous pre-match dance routine?
    Maher and co being fools is irrelevant – as is the Polynesian percentage of NRL players. and don’t confuse AFL and Aussie Rules.
    and, please…”There are people in those states who have no idea of the difference between Union and League. I know people who have never watched a whole match of either code.” The point being?
    Moralists are highjacking social issues for their own grandstanding.

  5. Sean Gorman says

    Chris please tell me where does the sport end/start and the cultural festivity also end/ start? Football has always been both (as is any sport for that matter) and the reason for this is people inscribe it with meaning. Some will think it the theatre of the absurd, hyper- reality, religion or the most important thing in their life and all shades (no pun intended) in between. The game has grown for the better because a range of voices have come into the code to open up further potential and that sees the progression of the code on all levels. If that is moralistic then so be it. The days of just getting pissed on he terraces and standing on your empties while telling the opposition to “fuck off” and wolf whistling to the sheilas that file by are gone. Amen to that I say.

  6. bowchamp says

    I’m having problems trying to find the same cries of horror & shame by certain media & armchair/keyboard types whenever Collingwood’s gasp-inducing & recently departed champion, Alan Didak used to excite the crowd with his post-goal celebratory ‘shimmy’ .

    I’m yet to find anything like, say …
    . “We’ve never seen that (celebration) before and I don’t think we ever want to see it again to be perfectly honest, regardless of what it is,” E. McGuire
    . “Symbolic violence” Andrew Bolt
    . “I don’t think we want that in our game. It has nothing to do with this particular cause or celebration.” L. Mathews
    . “At first, when I first saw it, I thought it is aggressive. It displays violent moves.” D. Brereton.

    And no faux outrage when recently retired Brisbane Lions Warrior & Captain, Johnathon Brown, was ever-so-proudly addressed as such.
    So what is it with Adam Goodes that’s different to both Messrs Brown & Didak – aaahh yes, let me guess…

  7. American_Sniper says

    “Australian football in the southern states is very insular.”

    “There a lot more darker skinned people in both junior and senior League/Union teams than in Australian football.”

    You speak of insularity, but don’t seem to be aware that:
    1. Two-thirds of Australia’s aboriginals live in the rugby playing states: NSW and Queensland.
    2. Rugby is a major sport in the Pacific Islands while Australian Rules Football hardly exists.
    3. I don’t have statistics of for the dispersal of the Islanders within Australia but, commonsense would indicate Queensland. and NSW as destinations of choice for Pacific Islanders because of nearness and climate.

    A short visit to the southern states would make you aware that the Australian aboriginals and Pacific Islanders represent a much lower percentage of the populations.

    Why conflate aboriginals with Pacific Islanders under the catch-all
    “darker skins”? These are distinct communities.

    I’m anti-racist, but the cause isn’t helped by idle musings. Statistics next time please!

  8. I’ve read this three times and I still don’t know what its about? Apparently I’m racist because I don’t watch rugby league or union? As soon as someone (anyone) becomes political they are inviting criticism and should be questioned. Isn’t that how democracy works?

    What a wonderful world.

  9. Muz from Queensland says

    For me it’s about sport and its capacity to make things better … not worse.

    Footy is a cultural product and the booing of Goodes is a social issue. Even if some of the Hawthorn fans were booing because he tripped someone two years ago, their collective actions were perceived as being possibly racist.

    The likes of Maher and Watson and the leadership at Hawthorn could have said maybe we shouldn’t do that because it just isn’t good. It just doesn’t seem right.

    What happens on the sporting field does have all of these broader implications … Winmar and Michael Long proved that …

    Racism isn’t gone … it is their everyday … even for highly paid, educated, well respected football players who become Australian of The Year …

    Sport can make a big difference …

    Maher, Watson and the leadership at Hawthorn (and the AFL) just missed an opportunity to call out racism and say it is not acceptable. Maher and Watson were openly encouraging it … it made me feel sick and angry. If those two are thinking that way … geez …

    Australian Rules, the AFL, the NRL and rugby league all have a long way to go. Rugby league has less of a way to go than the “national game”.

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