‘An iconic moment’: Adam Goodes war cry immortalised in bronze

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Adam Goodes’ Indigenous war cry has been immortalised by the Sydney Swans in a larger-than-life bronze sculpture at the players’ entrance at the club’s new home.

The Adam Goodes statue was unveiled on Friday.

Almost eight years to the day since Goodes performed the dance that changed the course of his devastating final season, the man who has performed more times on the SCG than any other sportsman returned to the club to witness the unveiling of a commemoration he initially resisted.

In a relatively private ceremony shrouded in secrecy, Swans bosses and the club’s Indigenous past players gathered outside the Royal Hall of Industries around the corner from the SCG for the unveiling on Friday at 1pm.

Sensitive to Goodes’ estrangement from the AFL and cognisant of the trauma inflicted upon the dual Brownlow medallist, two-time premiership player and 2014 Australian of the Year during his final sporting performances, Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham revealed the decision to cement the champion’s place in the club’s history to this masthead only on the condition the story was published after the event.

Goodes was at the unveiling.

It was under these conditions that Goodes, whose wife Natalie gave birth to the couples’ third child – a son Leroy – this week, attended the ceremony alongside his close friend, partner and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin and former Sydney Indigenous players including Lewis Jetta, Derek Kickett, Byron Sumner, and Troy Cook.

Lance Reilly, whose late father Elkin was an Indigenous pioneer for South Melbourne, was also at the unveiling of the sculpture, which was installed on Thursday and concealed in covering until lunchtime on Friday.

The paradoxical circumstances surrounding Goodes’ heroic stature in the game and at Sydney and his very public divorce from the wider football landscape continues to haunt the AFL and was not lost this week on the Swans’ enduring benefactor Basil Sellers, who commissioned the sculpture.

“He was badly hurt,” said Sellers. “He’s a sensitive person under that strong football exterior. It hit him hard.”

The dance at the SCG in 2015, Goodes final season, divided the football media, provoking some angry commentary from Carlton fans and a delayed and mediocre response from AFL bosses. Goodes said at the time: “It was about representing our people and our passion and dance is a big way we do that.

“There was nothing untoward towards the Carlton supporters, it is actually something for them to stand up and say: ‘yep, cool – we see you, we acknowledge you, bring it on’ … If people don’t understand it, let’s take the time to understand it. Take a chill pill, understand what I was doing.”

Four years after the unveiling of the famous and iconic Nicky Winmar statue in Perth, Pridham said: “There are simply too few sculptures depicting our Indigenous leaders. Let there be many more in the future … The importance to our country of Adam’s courage in standing for his people is well documented. He has distinguished himself on and off the football field for his courage, integrity and grit.

“As important as his football career is, it does not define him. His social conscience is another important ingredient in his life. Like bronze, Adam is strong and rich in layers of attainment.”

In an emotional speech at the ceremony Pridham said: “Adam Goodes owes football and the people of Australia nothing. However, we collectively owe him so much. So Adam, please accept this sculpture as a symbol of our gratitude and respect for showing us your strengths as a role model across so many diverse fields of achievement.”

The Cathy Weiszemann sculpture, valued at an estimated $120,000, was the vision of 88-year-old Sellers, who also funded the Bob Skilton sculpture outside the Lakeside Oval at Albert Park and 11 sporting sculptures around the SCG and eight in Adelaide, including those of premiership coach Paul Roos and another club champion and Brownlow medallist Paul Kelly.

Created with Goodes’ blessing, Pridham said that the retired player “took a bit of convincing” but that once Goodes agreed to the project he also settled upon the war dance as his chosen posture.

Added Sellers: “It was an easy decision to make and it was exactly what he [Goodes] wanted. As far as we’re concerned it’s an iconic moment and an iconic person.”

Pridham said of Goodes: “It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and critique. It is easy to avoid difficult things, instead seeking the safety of taking a comfortable and familiar path in life. This has not been Adam’s way.”

Describing the dance, Pridham said: “Celebrating a goal, Adam terrorised a section of Carlton fans, sitting some 30 metres away, with an Indigenous war dance, brandishing an imaginary spear, during the Indigenous round, whilst wearing an Indigenous guernsey designed by his mother.

“Adam’s inspiration for the dance was the war cry of the under-16 Flying Boomerang team. His dance was superb. As we all know the moment was the inspiration for unprecedented community debate, reflection and awareness … Like Adam, this sculpture is strong and it will endure. It will stand firm on this land behind me as a reminder of a man who never stands still.”

A painting of the Goodes dance owned by the Swans chairman will be hung in the club’s new headquarters this week. The plaque on the sculpture outside reads simply: “Adam Goodes.”

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