AFL 2023: Legend Adam Goodes’ ‘war dance’ immortalised in bronze statue, racism, retirement, Sydney Swans
Sydney Swans legend Adam Goodes has been immortalised in bronze out the front of the club’s headquarters.
The bust depicts Goodes’ iconic war dance he performed against Carlton at Indigenous Round in 2015.
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In the match, Goodes celebrated a goal by performing the dance, in which he mimed throwing a spear in the direction of the Carlton cheer squad.
Goodes explained at the time the celebration had been inspired by an Indigenous youth representative team — The Flying Boomerangs.
The celebration was seen as both controversial and iconic and also led to the end of his career as he faced unprecedented abuse from crowds after the celebration.
“That was … something which I’d never done before, and that is to go on the biggest stage, a football field, and do a dance and celebrate my culture and Indigenous rounds,” Goodes said at the unveiling of the statue.
“Being an Indigenous person, that would be a safe place to celebrate my culture.
“Hopefully it really symbolises for our young people to continue to celebrate our culture, no matter what stage you’ve got.
“We should be proud of who we are, where we come from.
“We need our young people to keep being inspired by those people in our communities because it’s up to us to raise ourselves.”
While some questioned the use of what has become such a controversial moment in AFL history, there was plenty of support for the statue.
CODE Sports’ Lachlan McKirdy tweeted: “Think this could be my new favourite statue, ever. Amazing stuff from the Sydney Swans to honour Adam Goodes.”
Reporter Mark Gottlieb wrote: “Hopefully this is the start of Goodesy coming back into football fold. It’s such a huge shame that a legend of his stature has been so disconnected from the game since retirement. Football is better with Adam Goodes in it.”
The Age’s Andrew Wu posted: “This is magnificent. Almost eight years to the day he performed the war dance against Carlton. The love the Swans and Adam Goodes hold for each other is one of the reasons why the game is special to many people.”
One of only 15 players to have won the AFL’s Brownlow Medal for the game’s best and fairest multiple times (2003 and 2006), Goodes played 372 games with 464 goals.
A two-time premiership winner and four-time All-Australian, Goodes was one of the greatest players in the era to kick off the new millennium.
Goodes also became Australian of the Year in 2014 for his anti-racism advocacy and community work.
But Goodes was also targeted by racial slurs during his playing career.
The Sydney Swans icon called out a 13-year-old fan who racially abused him during a match against Collingwood in 2013 and the final two seasons of his career, he was booed relentlessly.
He has spoken in the past about the racial abuse leading him to the decision to quit the sport and he has often chosen to stay away from AFL activities since ending his career.
Speaking at the time about the war dance, Goodes said “would have been silly to do it to my own supporters” and explained there was no offence intended towards Carlton supporters.
“There was nothing untoward to the Carlton supporters. It was actually something for them to stand up and go, ‘yep we see you, and we acknowledge you – bring it on’,” Goodes said at the time.
“My teammates loved it, the Carlton players loved it.
“For everybody else, take a chill pill, understand what I was doing, and if there were Carlton supporters offended by what I was doing, I’m sorry, but it was a war cry.”
However, Goodes retired at the end of 2015 and did not attend the Grand Final, where retiring players are traditionally farewelled.
In 2021, he told British journalist Stephen Sackur in an episode of BBC’s HARDtalk that walking away was the best option.
“Me choosing to walk away was me making a choice for my own mental health,” he said.
“And I needed to get away from this toxic environment which, up until that point in time, had been a safe place for me to just be an incredible player that I wanted to be and to learn to be the leader that I was.
“But here I had the choice to submit myself to this toxic environment or get away from it and really reassess my priorities.”
Goodes has continued to fight against racism and produced the documentary The Australian Dream which focuses on his final days in the AFL.
The AFL and all 18 clubs apologised to Goodes in 2019 for their failure to adequately support the Swans champion following the incident but the 43-year-old is still yet to reconnect with the league although he remains close to the Swans.
Originally published as AFL legend Adam Goodes’ iconic ‘war cry’ immortalised in bronze