Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year and two-time Brownlow Medallist, talks about injury, education and family. By Richard Cooke.
Bloods brother: Adam Goodes, 34, AFL player
[RC] We don't know much about the life of injured athletes. How did you spend the second half of last season?
[Adam Goodes] Trying to get back, and maintaining the fitness that I had. Working in what we call "The Dungeon"; underneath the SCG [Sydney Cricket Ground]. It's got a TV in there, which is nice; but you don't want to spend too much time in rehab because it means that you're spending a lot of time in this room.
[RC] There were reports last year that you were thinking about going into politics. Was that on your mind?
[AG] Not really. It had nothing to do with what I was saying. But it doesn't surprise me what happens in the media.
[RC] There have been some different kinds of reactions to your becoming Australian of the Year.
[AG] Well, I think everyone needs to understand that’s the environment we all live in. I would rather people say something than not say it. Australia Day … obviously it has been a very sad day for me, as it is for a lot of Aboriginal people, and will continue to be. One thing I’ve been able to do in the last four to five years is turn it into a celebration of our culture and our people. We are still thriving after 225 years of colonisation and diseases, dispossession, and countless government policies.
[RC] You’ve spoken about the importance of education. You yourself did a diploma of Aboriginal studies.
[AG] Having a mother who was stolen generation, and all my aunties and uncles who have been displaced as well, there wasn’t a person in my family I could ask about who I was as an Aboriginal person. So to seek out that information and learn the history of Aboriginal people in Australia … it was very hard to take. There was a lot of anger about what had happened to Aboriginal people, and I was never taught this in school and that’s what really angered me. Why wasn’t I learning any of this at school? I grew up learning that Australia was colonised by the English and that nobody was here before Captain Cook. It was quite a shock to learn otherwise.
[RC] Sport has always been one of the few places where society can have relatively frank conversations about race relations.
[AG] Well, it’s a conversation that we shouldn’t have to have, first of all, but unfortunately it’s there right in our face and it’s still out there rife in the communities. So without leaders, without sportspeople standing up for what they believe in, nothing will change. If you don’t decide to make those choices, then the environment for people that play sport after me, that live in our communities after all of us, are going to face the same troubles and experiences that most minority people experience in this country.
[RC] Paul Roos is someone you spent a lot of time talking to, especially about life outside football.
[AG] Those conversations that we had were about everything – it was about life, it was about family, it was about balance in life, it was about spirituality. There weren’t many things that we didn’t talk about, and to be able to have a friend and a person like that, to not only help guide you but who challenges you as well, that’s what a good role model does for you.
[RC] You also have a very close relationship with your former teammate Michael O’Loughlin.
[AG] When I moved up to Sydney, I found out that Mick and I were related, that we were cousins. But on the recent journey that I’ve just been on I found out even more than that. Michael is actually my nephew.
[RC] That was through the SBS show Who Do You Think You Are? It sounds like it had a real impact on you.
[AG] Yeah, it was an awesome experience. The show did 12 months of research on your ancestry. They take you on a journey which they think will best make a TV program, but what they show on the program is about 20 per cent of what they found. When it’s finished, I get the rest of that 80 per cent. That’s my family history, given to me as a gift that I will have forever.
[RC] You’ve had a career where you’ve really achieved everything you could have wanted. What happens next?
[AG] If you ask any footballer why they keep playing, every player would say it’s to win another premiership. I’ll tell you right now – I’m not working hard in that little dungeon down there, by myself most of the time, for fun. I’m doing that so I can be in peak condition, peak fitness, so that when it is my time to be called on for the team
I will be ready to be able to play my role.
[RC] You still enjoy it.
[AG] I still love it, yeah. It’s my passion. When I wake up in the morning, it’s what my body still craves, and my mind still craves that hunger for success.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 28, 2014 as "Bloods brother".
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