August 24, 2019
Sports

Shut up and play: how Walker is being given the Goodes treatment

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Of all the reasons tossed up for NSWs loss in the first State of Origin, surely the dumbest belonged to former Penrith and Broncos coach Anthony Griffin.

In a column for News Corp, Griffin wrote that Blues five-eighth Cody Walker had his priorities all askew when he “used” his first press conference in camp to say that he, as a proud Indigenous man, wouldnt be singing the words to the national anthem before the match.

Tough outing: Cody Walker did not enjoy the Origin debut would have liked ... But it had nothing to do with not signing the national anthem.

Tough outing: Cody Walker did not enjoy the Origin debut would have liked … But it had nothing to do with not signing the national anthem.Credit:AAP

“For Walker to focus on the anthem, he subsequently drew energy from his teammates,” Griffin argued. “When asked, they then had to publicly back him, agree to respect his stance, or, even worse, silently disagree.

“All the while drawing collective energy away from the reason the team had come together, to create a bond to win a rugby league battle that was greater than all of them. The end result of Origin I was Queensland were hungrier. Their commitment to each other grew stronger the longer the game went.”

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That, as they say in the classics, will dead-set do me. A few footballers calmly and respectfully talking about an important issue – to them and thousands of others – in a handful of media opportunities over 10 days cost the Blues victory in game one?

Since being appointed NSW coach last year, Brad Fittler has opened up all of his training sessions to the media. As he said in the lead-up to the series opener: “If you cant handle an interview, you cant handle reading a newspaper, you cant help me on game day.”

Little did Fittler know that players speaking freely to the media about stuff important to them would have a mysterious impact, throwing their chakras out of whack and draining them of vigour and vitality and the ability to read Kalyn Pongas left-foot step. Spooky.

Perhaps Walker and all the Indigenous players who may or may not play in Origin II in Perth on June 23 should take up Griffins advice and say nothing about issues important to them. Perhaps they shouldnt say anything at all.

Perhaps they should just shut up and play football. Perhaps they should do what that pesky Adam Goodes shouldve done during his AFL career: just shut up and play football. Dont call out racism. Dont have a respectful debate about it. Dont fight for change. Dont play the victim. Shut up and play football, Adam.

Because thats what we expect from our Indigenous athletes: Play brilliantly, let us marvel at your “black magic” on the field, but when you cross the white line be quiet and, whatever you do, dont get angry.

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I was fortunate enough to be at the State Theatre last Friday night for the premiere of the Goodes documentary The Final Quarter. Sitting in the iconic playhouse were past and present members of the Sydney Swans. So, too, was AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

One person who wasnt there was Goodes. He watched the documentary once, on his own, and it was so painful he had no desire to watch it again.

In many respects, the premiere felt like a football match with cheering and booing and cursing and shaking of heads in disbelief at the way a proud Indigenous man who would not just shut up and play football was treated by footy crowds, the AFL and – most horribly – by conservative commentators appealing to their narrow-minded and, lets face it, racist audience.

(Fun fact: the same conservative commentators who slammed Goodes for calling out racism during his career are currently defending Israel Folaus right to say the gays are going to burn in hell. Go figure).

Were not going to go around in circles about the Goodes issue here. The documentary does it better than anything else you will read or watch. But its clear that the issues Goodes confronted before he was ultimately run out of the game are still being felt by other Indigenous athletes, in all codes.

Shut up and just play. They said the same thing to Muhammad Ali, who wasnt feted as a pioneer until long after he retired from boxing.

Off-field impact: Adam Goodes accepting his Australian of the Year award in 2014.

Off-field impact: Adam Goodes accepting his Australian of the Year award in 2014.Credit:Rohan Thomspon

Shut up and just play. They said the same thing to Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who stood with a fist in the air on the medal dais after the 200m mens final on the track at the 1968 Olympics before being run out of Mexico City by the IOC amid some pretty heavy death threats.

Shut up and just play. They are now saying the same thing to Walker and Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr and even Queensland centre Will Chambers, who didnt seem to be drained of too much energy despite his strong remarks about the anthem.

I hope Walker and his Indigenous teammates keep talking about the anthem and whatever else they feel they should talk about. If theyre not saying it, then who is?

If Goodes didnt ask questions of the AFL, who else wouldve? The last time I interviewed Goodes, a few months after he was named Australian of the Year in 2014, he said something that resonates following the documentarys release.

Its a line borrowed from former Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas. “If people only remember me for my football,” Goodes said, “Ive failed in life.Read More – Source

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