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Goodes, the bad and the ugly: a week of heartache

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This week's racial slur on a star player has tested coach John Longmire's skills to the utmost, writes Caroline Wilson.

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Eddie McGuire had 'a bad moment'

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley addresses the media at Melbourne airport, describing Eddie McGuire's comment about Swans star Adam Goodes as 'just a bad moment'.

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ANYONE doubting the influence Adam Goodes holds over the Sydney Swans and the reverence they hold for him only had to be at the club on Wednesday in the hours that followed Eddie McGuire's racial insult.

And anyone doubting the impact of McGuire's words - he had suggested on radio the indigenous footballer could be used in a promotional stunt for the King Kong musical - only had to look at the faces of the men who run that club.

Support: John Longmire, left, with Adam Goodes.

Support: John Longmire, left, with Adam Goodes. Photo: Getty Images

It was the players' day off, but in the half-joking words of coach John Longmire: ''I can't keep them away from the place.''

Downstairs in reception, a group was trying on sponsors' runners and Mitch Morton, standing at the front desk posting a package home to his father in Perth, pointed at a particularly smart new pair being tried by his new teammate Kurt Tippett.

''The rich just get richer here,'' Morton said, and both young men laughed. When asked whether they had heard what McGuire had said, all the players became silent. Some rolled their eyes. The general response was one of disgust.

Longmire watched the Swans in training.

Longmire watched the Swans in training. Photo: Getty Images

Upstairs, chief executive Andrew Ireland was awaiting a call from his chairman, Richard Colless, who was speaking by phone with McGuire. Goodes at that point had not taken McGuire's call but several Collingwood people were trying to communicate to the Swans that McGuire had been over-tired after attending a Melbourne Grammar indigenous fund-raiser the previous night.

Colless had tried more than once to emphasise to McGuire just how desperately upset was Goodes and that the club stood solidly behind him. At one point during the day, Colless had been prepared to say in his statement that despite everything he was aware McGuire was a man of social conscience. Goodes would not put his name to that.

First, at the Collingwood-Sydney game two Fridays ago, a 13-year-old girl had called Goodes ''an ape'' and an unwell older Magpie supporter produced more racial sledging, then the fatigued but ultimately well-meaning McGuire fell. At some point over these draining few days for Goodes and the Swans, half-apologies were no longer enough.

Whoever briefed Andrew Demetriou when the AFL boss was in Brisbane early on Wednesday had clearly not spoken to Goodes or anyone to whom Goodes had spoken. No one in the Swans' Basil Sellers Centre alongside the SCG was in any doubt regarding the seriousness of this incident nor how shattered Goodes was on learning what McGuire had said.

Goodes had spoken to a number of friends on Wednesday morning, including old teammate Michael O'Loughlin, AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud and Longmire. It has been suggested Goodes might not line up to play Essendon on Saturday, but that was an understatement. The events of recent days have caused the dual Brownlow medallist to question the game itself and his role in it.

If his teammates were disgusted and Ireland and Colless bewildered in their disappointment, the visibly emotional Longmire, telling Fairfax Media he was ''staggered'', was also angry. The events of Friday night and Saturday morning had had a profound effect on the coach and his family and racist insults of any kind in football now totally perplex the Swans coach.

Longmire had sent Goodes a text message on Saturday telling him how proud he was and yet, by Wednesday, Longmire could not say his legendary star had gone up in his estimation in choosing to emotionally put himself on the line in describing the hurt and humiliation of racist bullying. He couldn't have gone any higher, said Longmire.

Politically handling the fallout from McGuire's mistake has proven complicated and tricky even for the generally quick-on-his-feet Demetriou and McGuire's own response has proved overplayed and heavy-handed. Longmire would not discuss in any depth how he would guide Goodes into round 10 but certainly he said he would understand if Goodes had chosen not to play.

Friends of the coach and AFL veterans continue to marvel at the manner in which Longmire has influenced the game without fanfare or any form of notoriety.

Outside and inside the Swans, it has been said often how smoothly the Paul Roos-Longmire transition took place and, while Longmire has been described as marginally tougher than Roos, his man-management has proved a notable feature of his first 2½ seasons.

Goodes' trauma this week has been played out in public and Morton spoke earlier this season about his long-term battle with anxiety, but when Longmire and his assistant, Stuart Dew, were convinced to front the commission late last year after winning the 2012 premiership, the AFL's board members were given an insight into the depth and number of personal problems within a football team and how much work went into managing them.

It was Longmire, during the late 1990s as vice-president of the players' association, who helped select, with Alastair Clarkson and Peter Mann, Demetriou as the union's chief executive to oversee a collective bargaining agreement. That agreement transformed the proportion of player, welfare and retirement funding and began Demetriou's ascension into position of the game's most powerful administrator.

Longmire had been initially reluctant to meet the commission - ''I just wanted to coach the footy team and we were trying to prepare for the new season'' - but his address finished up running well over time and is now seen as sowing a fertile seed of doubt about the effectiveness and structure of the laws of the game committee.

AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick was so impressed with Longmire's discussion about the work and planning that had gone into the Swans' final week in September that he has gazetted lunch with the premiership coach into the annual commission calendar.

The address also influenced in a less significant manner the decision to place a club executive - Hawthorn's Mark Evans - into the AFL hierarchy as football boss, something Longmire described this week as a ''good thing''.

''There was no agenda on my behalf,'' Longmire said, ''just an opportunity to meet the game's decision makers and let them know what clubs do. I think it's incorrect to say we have no interest in what's good for the game. I'm acutely aware that my No. 1 priority is to win and there's no push by the coaches to be given a big say in the rules, but I think we can have some valuable input.''

The reigning premiership coach said he could see no signs of the post-premiership complacency once described by his own old coach Denis Pagan as ''the success disease''.

''I see blokes like Jarrad McVeigh, Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery and I see no change to the consistency in the way they prepare or the way they play,'' Longmire said.

''Some others have been slightly down on form or consistency, but it's impossible to tell. We really haven't played more than a few bad quarters of football this year.''

Longmire did not care to predict the short or long-term effect this week might have on Goodes' football following his best-on-ground performance against Collingwood. In the scheme of things, he said, ''that's not really the main issue, is it?''

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5 comments so far

  • Adam Goodes, mate, you are a true champion. Such grace and dignity in a very difficult situation. Your humanity is a beacon to us all. We stand with you - shoulder to shoulder.

    Commenter
    Howe Synnott
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    June 01, 2013, 7:21AM
    • What an excellent article, the Swans have solid foundations right throughout the club and Longmire is a huge part of that. Whilst I support the Blues I have a real admiration for what the Swans achieve both on and off the field and how they go about their business and they always draw my attention and support as my 'other' team.

      Commenter
      Ian
      Location
      atkinson06@bigpond.com
      Date and time
      June 01, 2013, 7:41AM
      • There is no doubt which people have acted with integrity in this affair. Adam Goodes and the Swans can all hold their heads high while others should be utterly ashamed of themselves. The AFL needs to show they can also act with integrity and we haven't seen it yet.

        Commenter
        Falk Wieborn
        Date and time
        June 01, 2013, 8:47AM
        • Caroline, I fully agree with all you have written in this and other articles on this subject. Old boys club it is indeed. I was amazed that Mick Malthouse came out in print suggesting "Eddie is not the victim". Perhaps he could come out again and mention the word "rapist" as he did re Milne of St. Kilda. Don't do as I do, do as I say.

          Commenter
          Stan
          Date and time
          June 01, 2013, 2:06PM
          • Fascinating to read about Longmire's take on the laws of the game committee. His comment that it is unfair to say the coaches have no interest in what is good for the game clearly refers the same comment made by Kevin Bartlett. A shame Carro did not make this distinction clearer, although in fairness this was not the major topic of the article. Anyone who truly understands the fans knows that the constant tinkering of the rules of the game, along with Bartlett's illogical and misplaced explanations on his radio program are, by far and away, the greatest bug bear(bare) of the fans.

            Do we really need a laws of the game committee? Have they actually done more harm to the game than good? No fan in their right mind wants to see king hits etc, thank goodness they have been eliminated, however, for many the game is now unrecognisable.

            There is hope with the appointment of Mark Evans, (already this season the number of free kicks per game has dropped by roughly 35 per cent!) who surely will recognise that every new rule introduced simply increases the difficulty of umpiring the game. Perhaps it is a myth the game is hard to umpire, the real issue is the rules are too complex and technical to allow 27 field umpires to achieve consistency each week.

            Kevin Bartlett is a legend of the game but failed as a coach. He is also a brilliant broadcaster, however is failing as a rule maker. The sooner the AFL Commission recognises this, the sooner their fans, i.e. their market, will be content.

            Commenter
            Hooz
            Location
            In The outer
            Date and time
            June 05, 2013, 3:49PM

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