MARK OF A CHAM­PION

In a fa­mous AFL decider, Syd­ney’s most dec­o­rated player proved the power of sheer force of will

Men's Health (Australia) - - Inspiration - Adam Goodes Ian Cock­er­ill is a for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the Syd­ney Swans.

What should lead­er­ship look like, when both the stakes and odds are high? For mine, it looks like a 32-year-old with a blown knee chas­ing a footy and a seem­ingly lost cause, with his team 12 points down with 12 to play in the 2012 AFL grand fi­nal.

It looks like that same strap­ping man surg­ing onto a midfield hand­ball and tak­ing eight painful strides be­fore kick­ing long to the ad­van­tage of a team­mate, two rapid sub­se­quent touches set­ting up his side’s first goal of the quar­ter.

Bet­ter still was to come, as Syd­ney Swans cap­tain Adam Goodes de­fied logic to will his un­der­dog team to an im­prob­a­ble vic­tory in one of the most breath­less de­ciders of all time.

But first . . . Goodes had known per­sonal and team glory be­fore as a dual Brown­low Medal­list and mem­ber of the Swans’ drought-break­ing 2005 flag-win­ning side. What hap­pened after he rup­tured his pos­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment early in the sec­ond quar­ter of the 2012 decider, though, was peak Goodes, ca­jol­ing team­mates to dig ever deeper by force of per­son­al­ity and ex­am­ple against a stel­lar Hawthorn side that went on to claim the next three flags.

In do­ing so he smashed through a pain bar­rier; but then, many cap­tains have done that. Me­morably, he also oblit­er­ated a more in­sid­i­ous ob­sta­cle as a proud Abo­rig­i­nal man who still at­tracted snipes about his ticker.

No mat­ter that one of the AFL’S most suc­cess­ful clubs of re­cent times had seen fit to ap­point him cap­tain. For­get all the ac­co­lades. Out there, in the stands and among the trolls, there per­sisted a view that Goodes was the lat­est in a long line of in­dige­nous play­ers who went miss­ing when the acid was ap­plied. Over the course of that chill Septem­ber af­ter­noon in 2012, Goodes chal­lenged and then con­clu­sively buried that cyn­i­cal lie.

His knee heav­ily strapped in an act of faith rather than ther­apy, Goodes threw him­self into tack­les, clev­erly tapped and soc­cered the ball to team­mates, did what­ever it took to keep the Swans’ hopes alive – even as oth­ers in red and white suc­cumbed to in­jury – in a pul­sat­ing con­test of chang­ing leads.

And then, with seven min­utes left and Syd­ney one point up, Goodes roved a pack deep in the for­ward pocket, swiv­elled on his bad leg and snapped a 20-me­tre goal that gave Chan­nel 7 com­men­ta­tor Bruce Mca­vaney his open­ing . . . “Goodes . . . can he roll it through? He can! Cometh the mo­ment, cometh the cham­pion!” The Swans won by 10. By his ac­tions that day, Goodes didn’t just lead his team to glory, he led pub­lic opin­ion. That’s what lead­er­ship should look like.

‘‘Goodes did what­ever it took to keep the Swans’ hopes alive’’

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