Why Hawthorn supporters boo Adam Goodes

Stephen Alomes on the booing of Adam Goodes.


Australian Football has come a long way since the 1920s when some Carlton players didn’t like the smell or the presence of star on-baller Doug Nicholls, who went on to a successful career with other clubs.

Later, the Reverend Doug Nicholls became Sir Doug Nicholls, the Governor of South Australia.

Footy led Australia in its moves against racial vilification in the 1990s, despite some prejudice at local levels.

Despite the tom toms of the politically correct few, vilification has been rare at AFL matches, and the few individual exceptions each year prove the rule.

Yet, have some Hawthorn supporters booing Adam Goodes taken us back several steps?

“Why?” and “Who?” are questions we can’t easily answer. The “who” is difficult as the booers are not easy to identify. As Hawthorn’s premiership star Jordan Lewis remarked:

I personally don’t like it. I don’t get why they do it and I don’t understand it. I would love for someone to come out and say why they do it … It’s got to stop.

The booing is not related to earlier accusations that the Brownlow Medallist too often slid into other players, or tripped opponents. If that was so, the crowds would be booing Dustin Fletcher or, for different reasons, several noxious taggers who try only to stop a star player. Nor is it significantly related to the booing of champions, who opposing club supporters hate because “they are too good”. If it was, the list of targets would be longer.

The pattern of Hawthorn supporters booing Goodes – and they may not be the only ones – brings a rare political note into footy.

Why is this happening in the game that expresses Australian social democracy at its best, the game that puts aside class, religion, ethnicity, race and most other things (although not always gender or sexual preference) for the shared experience of the players and that of the fans?

The most logical speculation is that the booing mixes two elements: residual racism and political reaction.

Let’s bring two unmentionables into footy: class and politics. Hawthorn’s supporter base has many fans from the upper middle classes, good boys and girls from private schools and with good bank accounts. Sometimes, with class goes conservatism. They may not like Goodes’ political radicalism on Indigenous issues and they may feel fortified by the idea that politics should be kept out of football.

In other words, the racism is political and perhaps class-based as well.

Goodes’s admirable role as an active Australian of the Year who argued the case for Indigenous Australians may offend some footy traditionalists, who like to keep their class society and their political values separate from the footy field. In some quarters, a degree of unease was felt when Patrick McGorry argued the case for greater expenditure on mental health.

The booers don’t please the Hawthorn administration, which is establishing a new Indigenous foundation. Nor do the booers recognise the courage which has brought change. As Adam Goodes remarked:

People like Michael Long, Gilbert McAdam, Robbie Ahmat, Scotty Chisholm and Nicky Winmar, of course, have taken a stance, and it’s made it so much easier for the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footballers to come through without that stress … For us to go out there and feel equal and run around and just play footy, it’s a blessing in this day and age.

The most fundamental reason contrasts with that moral courage. As one voice on the footy blog, The Roar, remarked:

The sad truth is that Australians want, or expect, their sportspeople, particularly their footballers, to be oafish and when they’re not (shock, horror, they’re human beings with brains!) they get pilloried for it.

Footy is still short on moral courage. Fans and players sometimes feel happier with physical courage alone. Consider the failure of the Essendon players to stand up to the Dank experiments by saying “no”.

Perhaps those booing Hawthorn fans are also short on the social democratic values of Australian life that are now under challenge.

Or perhaps the booers prefer those days when the “Australian of the Year” was just a smiling sporting achiever.

Adjunct Professor Stephen Alomes is an adjunct professor at RMIT University and is the author of the book on Australian Football, society and the future: Australian Football The People’s Game 1958-2058 available from Walla Walla Press.


First published on ABC’s The Drum





  1. Tony Robb says

    You make many valid points particularly in relation to supporter expectation regarding player behavior away from football. There is certainly an element of “don’t rub my nose it it” from supporters who in all likelihood have a poor understanding of indigenous people full stop. I tend to feel that Hawthorn supporters are an overly smug bunch. Essendon and Hawthorn have made it an art form. However, politics and religion were once heavily entrenched in club culture with many clubs and their suburbs divided along religious lines. May there is still a hangover at Hawthorn. May be there is still a held view that Goodes over stepped the mark when he challenged the 13yr girl. Would he be viewed differently if Goods had approached the girl and a quickly said that he was offended by her comment rather than pointing her out on the run. I don’t know. Friday’s “war dance” is again confronting to some just as Greg Ingliss’ goanna celebration is after he scores a try, Neither is offensive but I can understand supporters of club getting belted might take issue with Goodes actions on Friday and view it as getting in their faces. It was great theatre but it was premeditated and I think Goodes would have been aware it would stir people up and that it could be construed as provocative. I think most of the booing is pack mentality is the sanctuary of the grandstand. However, people should question the ring leaders about their motives and I think the underlying reason will be racism against someone who is seen as acting above his station. Mind you, any club that had Jeff Kennett at president has some issues anyway.

  2. Steve Hodder says

    Oh boy are there some generalisations in there. Firstly the Hawthorn booing started in 2011 after an incident with Guerra, intensified throughout 2012 (more to do with Goodes kicking critical goals in key games when Syd beat Haw) and culminated in the incident with Josh Gibson. All of which happened befores Goodes, rightfully, exposed the young racist in the game against Collimgwood. Dustin Fletcher never tripped up Guerra or Gibson so that’s just junk. We’re talking Hawthorn specifically correct?

    Next; the stereotyping of Hawthorn as well-heeled private school types is a poor attempt at “guilt by association”; anyways, my experience has shown me that the more overt in your face racist aren’t usually distinguished by a private school education with a healthy bank accounts (they might be the sneaky ones), but more likely to be in an outer suburban garage. Have a look at the news tonight and check out the United Patriot Front!

    Adam Goodes radical? I haven’t noticed anything radical about him. Honourable, dignified and justifiably working against the scourge of racism; absolutely yes to all of that. Very straight forward liberal idealism if you ask me. I haven’t seen him trying to abolish the wage system, set up safe havens for refugees or even criticise the public funding of private schools. then again all power to him for doing it if he has. It was a conservative PM that gave Goodes his award anyway, so where’s the logic in that?

    Generalisations and stereotyping just muddy the waters and make it harder to understand what’s going on. There is, more than just, residual racism on the sidelines (again check out the news item about the United Patriot Front) and informed and accurate information is critical to combatting it. The media are culpable in confusing the issues and stirring things too.

    Lastly, I do wholeheartedly agree the booing has to stop. It serves no good purpose and just inflames, conflates all of the arguments and is no longer just “theatre” (was always overdone in regards to the sliding issues anyway).


  3. Peter Flynn says

    Why do they boo?

    Fucking ask them.

  4. aussie80s says

    Very well surmised response Steve Hodder.

    If Adjunct Professor Steve Alomes assumes Hawthorn supporters are booing for racist reasons and are elitist private school bullies it is probably time to properly research the work of your thesis and not blindly relate personal theories. Why do they then cheer Rioli, Hill and Burgoyne? Why do they not boo any other indigenous players in the competition, including Goodes’ teammate Jetta.

    This is nothing more than extreme left wing hysteria trying to create a reason to suit their beliefs (incidentally I don’t vote right wing either in case you want to start another theory).

    The booing of Goodes needs to stop but it is not occurring due to anything racist.

    I boo Tom Hawkins because he is a twat, make of that what you will. Maybe as a Hawthorn supporter I don’t like footballers who come from dairy farms or maybe I just don’t like twats.

  5. daniel flesch says

    Gosh , Mr. Adjunct Professor , it was in Year 9 we were taught the dangers of generalising from too few examples. I’m sure you were taught that too.Whatever the booing’s origins , it’s now taken on a life of its own . Like most people , including all Almanackers , i hope it stops , but sloppy articles like this one won’t help. And Tony Robb , you too seem to have fallen into the generalisation trap. To say Hawthorn and Essendon Supporters are smug is about as valid as the tired old ones about “toothless” Collingwood supporters, or Geelong supporters being either Western District squatters or their serfs . And i can assure you a lot of Hawthorn supporters didn’t like Kennett as Preident , just as a lot of Carlton supporters didn’t like John Elliot , or Melbourne supporters didn’t like Joe Gutnick and plenty of Essendon supporters are aghast at the antics of Paul Little.

  6. Grant Fraser says

    D-. Check your references. Could do better and needs to concentrate in class.

  7. Steve Hodder says

    JTH, did you put up this article just to stir up the Gold & Brown?


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