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