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Documentary film about former AFL footballer Adam Goodes sparks strong emotions

Ben Graham, July 21, 2019 7:00PM

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Former Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes. Picture. Phil Hillyard media_cameraFormer Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes. Picture. Phil Hillyard


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Former AFL footballer Adam Goodes’ documentary, in which he addressed bullying and racism* he faced while playing in the AFL, has led to expressions of strong emotion and support for the former Sydney Swans star.

The documentary, called The Final Quarter, showed the booing and racial abuse Goodes faced over the final three seasons of his career, eventually driving him to early retirement.

It also illustrated the AFL’s failure to step in early enough to stop it.

Indigenous Brownlow Medallist Gavin Wanganeen said the prolonged* nature of the harassment, and how isolated Goodes had been, was significant.

“The thing that stood out for me was just seeing how alone Adam was, and for how long it went on for, the booing, three years,” Wanganeen said after the screening.

The documentary highlights several incidents from Goodes’ career including when a 13-year-old girl called him an ape and the public’s reaction to him performing an indigenous war cry on field after kicking a goal.

Goodes’ premiership teammate Jude Bolton said watching the documentary had brought on feelings of “immense* sadness” and “extreme anger” at how Goodes had been treated by the AFL public.

“To see him just absolutely backed into a corner throughout what should be a fantastic finish to an incredible career was just extremely sad,” Bolton said.

media_cameraAdam Goodes celebrates on the final siren as the Swans defeat Hawthorn in the 2012 AFL Grand Final. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The powerful documentary was followed by a special late-night edition of current affairs TV show The Project, in which host Waleed Aly invited indigenous, media and sporting guests to discuss what Australia can learn from what happened to the Sydney Swans player.

After leading the discussion, he asked about where we go from here as a nation.

“It seems that what began as personal torment* for Adam quickly became a national controversy,” he said.

“The question now really is whether it can become a productive* national conversation. And the answer to that question rests with each of us.”

As part of the debate, he explained why there were no indigenous voices in the media representatives appearing on The Project — who discussed how the media handled the issue at the time.

“I deliberately didn’t have an indigenous voice (on the panel), because I felt that we needed to reflect the media as it was, and that doesn’t include indigenous voices,” he said.

Journalist for The Australian newspaper Chip Le Grand told the show that one of the most “disturbing” aspects of the documentary is that it highlights how “a lot of us don’t seem to even know racism when we see it”.

He also said the AFL’s failure to step in and help Goodes was “such a failure of leadership”.

“They just needed someone to clearly stand up, and it was (AFL chief executive officer) Gill McLachlan’s time, in that instance, to just say: ‘Look, yes, it is complicated but, clearly, race is a part of this, it’s a big part of this, it’s ugly and it has to stop’,” he said.

The Final Quarter media_cameraAdam Goodes celebrates goal during Sydney Swans versus Hawthorn AFL game at the SCG in Sydney in 2010. Picture: Phil Hillyard

After the documentary and panel discussion, the hashtag #WeStandWithAdam, Adam Goodes and The Final Quarter were all trending* on social media platform Twitter as Australians vented* their emotions.

Professor Anita Heiss, an indigenous author and teacher at the University of Queensland who co-wrote with Goodes the children’s book Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, said it would be difficult for her to sleep after watching it.

“Hearts will still be racing from what we’re watching. Know as you lie in bed, that ur are not alone in wanting a better country, free of racism,” she tweeted*.

Others said they were in “tears and shaking” at what they had seen.

Since the film premiered* at the Sydney Film Festival last month, it has sparked emotive* responses from a range of audiences during screenings. The film’s director Ian Darling said Goodes found it very difficult to watch.

On Thursday morning on TV talk show Studio 10, Darling said he wanted “everyone to look at (the documentary) with open eyes and an open heart.”

“Just be prepared to think that maybe we didn’t get it right,” he said. “Literally, every single person I’ve shown it to — from Gill McLachlan at the AFL through to schoolkids — have said ‘Wow, I didn’t understand the extent of the booing’ or ‘I didn’t understand the enormity* of the media conversation’.”

On the day the film premiered, the AFL offered an “unreserved*” apology to the former player acknowledging the league’s inaction during the period. The full apology is below.

The league’s apology was criticised by fans of the game who were quick to point out it has come four years too late.

The decision to apologise on the day Goodes’ documentary premiered also prompted some to claim it was opportunistic, meaning they thought the AFL was taking advantage of the situation to make the AFL look better.

Football identity Sam Newman is one of the more prominent voices in the film and was widely criticised on social media after it aired for claiming the booing of Goodes was not about race. The former co-host of the AFL Footy Show hit out online and repeated his opinion, even phoning documentary director Ian Darling to complain about being included in the documentary.

However, other prominent people in sport have spoken out to lament* the way the Sydney Swans icon* was treated in his final seasons of AFL footy.

The AFL Players’ Association President Patrick Dangerfield led this expression of regret and wanted to note that what Goodes suffered through would be a catalyst* for change within the football community.

“We, as players, feel incredibly sad for what Goodesy went through,” Dangerfield said.

“What we can do is commit to doing whatever we can to ensure this moment is remembered as a catalyst for change.

“We implore* all footy fans to watch the documentary and let it serve as a timely reminder of the devastation that racism inflicts*.”

The Final Quarter media_cameraIn 2013 Adam Goodes marked the 20th anniversary of former St Kilda player Nicky Winmar’s famous protest against racial abuse by Collingwood fans during a match in 1993. Picture: Phil Hillyard


“The Australian Football League and the 18 AFL Clubs have come together to make this statement on behalf of our members, administrators*, staff and players,” the statement reads.

“The history of the game says that Australian rules has officially been played for 161 years.

“Yet, for many years before, Aboriginal history tells us that traditional forms of football were played by Australia’s first peoples all over Australia, most notably in the form of Marngrook in the Western Districts of Victoria. It is Australia’s only Indigenous football game — a game born from the ancient traditions of our country. It is a game that is proudly Australian.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players are some of the most extraordinary players that the game has seen, and football has played a part in positive social change for many people and communities.

“2019 will see the release of two important films about football, racism and discrimination*. The films focus on the treatment of Adam Goodes, one of the game’s greatest champions, and tell the story of Australia’s history with the First Peoples of this land.

“Through Adam’s story, we see the personal and institutional* experience of racism. We see that Australia’s history of dispossession* and disempowerment* of First Nation’s people has left its mark, and that racism, on and off the field, continues to have a traumatic and damaging impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities.

“The treatment of Adam challenges us, and our right to be considered Australia’s indigenous football code. Adam, who represents so much that is good and unique about our game, was subject to treatment that drove him from football. The game did not do enough to stand with him and call it out.

“We apologise unreservedly* for our failures during this period.

“Failure to call out racism and not standing up for one of our own let down all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, past and present.

“Our game is about belonging. We want all Australians to feel they belong and that they have a stake in the game. We will not achieve this while racism and discrimination exists in our game.

“We pledge to continue to fight all forms of racism and discrimination, on and off the field.

“We will stand strongly with all in the football community who experience racism or discrimination.

“We will listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities to learn about the impact of racism and in doing so, we will gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

“We will continue to work to ensure a safe and inclusive* environment wherever our game is played.

“And we urge all Australians, and in particular our supporters and fans, to see these films with open hearts and minds and learn from the experience and leadership of Adam Goodes, just as we are.

“We are unified* on this, and never want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.”

The Final Quarter is rated PG and is available to watch on

A second documentary about Goodes, The Australian Dream, will premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival Opening Gala on August 1.


  • racism: treating someone differently (often badly) because of their race
  • prolonged: continuing for a long time
  • immense: extremely large or great
  • torment: severe suffering
  • productive: producing something worthwhile
  • vented: expressing a strong emotion
  • trending: popular or widely discussed online
  • tweeted: sent a message on Twitter
  • premiered: had its first showing
  • emotive: arousing strong emotion
  • enormity: large size
  • unreserved: without holding anything back, complete
  • lament: expression of grief or sorrow
  • icon: a person or thing that represents an idea or value or is a symbol of something greater
  • catalyst: made something happen faster or sooner
  • implore: beg someone to do something
  • administrators: people who manage the business
  • discrimination: unjust treatment of people based on their race, gender, age or some other reason
  • institutional: established as the normal behaviour in an organisation
  • dispossession: the act of depriving someone of land or something important
  • disempowerment: the act of taking away power or control from someone
  • unreservedly: without any exceptions
  • inclusive: not excluding anyone
  • unified: everyone together as one


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  1. What opinion did Sam Newman express in the film and again after seeing the film?
  2. What did Ian Darling say was a common response after people watched the film?
  3. Why did some footy fans criticise the AFL’s apology?
  4. What role mentioned in the story does Patrick Dangerfield have apart from playing for Geelong?
  5. Explain what Marngrook is and why it is mentioned in the AFL’s apology.


1. Take a stand
In order to end racism in Australia, we must all stand up to send the message that it is unacceptable. Working with a partner, brainstorm a list of things you can do if you are a victim of racism or if you witness racism. Discuss together which of these actions would have the greatest positive impact while keeping in mind that you need to keep yourself and others safe. Then write a pledge that you can take, stating what you will do whenever you encounter racism.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability, Ethical Understanding, Civics and Citizenship

2. Extension
Perhaps you have been a victim of racism yourself? Or maybe you have been discriminated against in some other way — because of your gender, age, religion or some other trait. If you have never been the victim yourself it is likely you have seen or heard of it happening to someone else. Write about what happened, how you felt and how you dealt with it. Finish by telling how you would like to see the world change.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Ethical Understanding

Write an exposition convincing other children of the importance of taking a stand if they ever witness racist behaviour.

Use Vinny Vocabulary’s power of persuasion by adding in emotive language.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Share something you learnt or emotion you felt from reading this story or watching the documentary. What ideas do you have for how you, other Australians and the AFL could better support and show respect to indigenous footballers?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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