Home » Hall of Fame Bio: Adam Goodes

Hall of Fame Bio: Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes
372 games
464 goals
Premiership Player 2005, 2012
Brownlow Medal 2003, 2006
Best & Fairest 2003, 2006, 2011
All Australian 2003, 2006, 2009, 2011
Leading Goalkicker 2009, 2010, 2011
AFL Rising Star 1999
Indigenous Team of the Century
Australian of the Year 2014

On the football field, Adam Goodes was imposing and masterly. He possessed a rare mix of balletic poise and perpetual forward motion, equally adept in the air or on the ground. Exquisitely skilled for a man of his size, his versatility made him a nightmare match-up for the opposition and a dream to watch for Swans supporters.

His career is one of statistical pre-eminence, but that’s far from what defines him. Rarely, if ever, has a footballer been as socially and culturally influential as Goodes. “If I’m only known for football, I’ve failed,” he said.

Sport can be a window onto the soul of our nation, and in 2014, Goodes was named Australian of the Year for his efforts to fight racism and his work with Indigenous youth community programs. His reach, therefore, extended further than any footballer ever had.

Goodes is from the Adnyamathanha, a contemporary Indigenous people from the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. As a boy, he moved regularly alongside his brothers Brett and Jake, raised lovingly by their Mum, Lisa, a member of the Stolen Generation.

In his early teens, Goodes inadvertently found Australian Rules Football. He idolised Michael Jordan and loved playing soccer. But, with no local soccer team to join, he turned to footy. By 16, he was playing for the North Ballarat Rebels Under 18 TAC Cup team.

In 1997, Goodes, 17, kicked six goals in that competition’s Grand Final, judged best afield in leading the Rebels to a premiership on the MCG, catching the attention of numerous AFL clubs. In the national draft held just weeks later, each club had access to one 17-year-old selection. Most took theirs early, while Sydney’s recruitment manager, Ric Barham, waited patiently, choosing Goodes with pick 43.

An inspired choice it proved to be. Like many young players, Goodes’ development took time. After playing an entire season in the reserves, he burst onto the scene in 1999, winning the AFL’s Rising Star Award as the competition’s best young player.

However, it wasn’t until the appointment of Paul Roos as the Swans’ senior coach in 2002 that Goodes truly found consistency. The winds of change swept through the entire club, with many younger players benefitting from the refreshing new approach.

Upon winning the 2003 Brownlow Medal as a free-wheeling, undersized but athletic ruckman, Goodes said, “We’re just all working hard together, and the one guy doing this is Paul Roos.”

“Like in the school days, where you just go and play, Roosy just lets me go out and play footy. I hope this is a nice little reward for you, mate. It’s definitely a big one for me.”

While his new coach had a profound influence, it was the hard work and dedication of Goodes himself that had the most significant impact on his performance. The game didn’t come altogether naturally, and he toiled away, honing his skills and taking his physical preparation to another level.

It was during this period that Goodes first harboured leadership aspirations. Roos enlisted Ray McLean and Leading Teams to help harness the now-famed ‘Bloods culture’. Goodes missed out on the initial leadership group and took feedback onboard. Later, his peers elected him co-captain of the Sydney Swans, a role he held for four years.

He was a player to be relied upon in the biggest moments, on the biggest stage. On the day the Swans broke a 72-year premiership drought in 2005, Goodes starred with 20 disposals and a crucial goal in the low-scoring tussle with arch-rivals West Coast.

As an influential, explosive midfielder, Goodes won his second Brownlow Medal in 2006. He also won his second Bob Skilton Medal and second All-Australian selection.

During the handover from Paul Roos to John Longmire, Goodes became critical in maintaining the Bloods’ culture. Time and again, he’d be the first to welcome new draftees and help them to settle into their professional environment.

As his career progressed, Goodes’ durability and mental strength impressed. In 2004, he played most of the season with a significant right knee PCL injury. In the second quarter of the 2012 Grand Final against Hawthorn, he landed awkwardly in a marking contest, damaging the PCL in his left knee so severely that he couldn’t run for months afterwards. He pushed through that day though, kicking a match-defining final quarter goal and playing a pivotal role in another premiership win.

After the match, he said, “Everyone had a role. We knew if we could do it harder and longer, we’d get the spoils, and here we are. The knee feels 100 per cent. I feel on top of the world! In this club, no matter how sore you are, everyone keeps giving something.”

Earlier in 2012, Goodes surpassed Michael O’Loughlin as the Sydney Swans games record holder, highly respected throughout the competition as a champion of the game.

Sadly, our champion was not always treated with the respect he so deserved. During the opening match of the 2013 Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round against Collingwood at the MCG, Goodes was racially abused by a crowd member. Afterwards, typically measured, he cited education as the key to learning, understanding, and moving away from prejudice and past wrongdoings.

Unfortunately, the racist goading Goodes endured for the following two years meant he had to draw deeply upon his renowned resilience, as the inexplicable treatment was an affliction of a whole other kind. Eventually, it drove him from the game.

When Adam Goodes retired in 2015, without the fanfare so richly deserved, football lost a part of its soul. In 2019, two evocative documentaries—The Final Quarter and The Australian Dream—were released, highlighting the impact of racism on Goodes, those closest to him, and Aboriginal people.

On the day of the club’s annual Marn Grook match in 2023, Basil Sellers and Michael O’Loughlin unveiled Cathy Weiszmann’s magnificent bronze sculpture depicting Goodes in his iconic war dance pose. “It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it? To have the honour of unveiling that was one of the highlights of my life,” O’Loughlin said. The sculpture is prominently situated at the players’ entrance of the newly built Sydney Swans HQ. His statue symbolises fortitude and courage; it represents culture in a statement of Indigenous greatness.

Goodes and O’Loughlin form a phenomenal partnership. In the red and white, they performed miraculous feats. In post-football life, as co-founders of the GO Foundation, they’ve enriched the lives of countless First Nations kids.

An imperious footballer, Adam Goodes is a giant of the sport. When he entered the Swans Hall of Fame in 2019, he was immediately elevated to Bloods Legend status. On receiving his rightful recognition, he said, “It’s a bit surreal, to be honest.”

“To be recognised with other Legends of our football club and to be put into the same sentence as those other Bloods Legends is quite incredible. It’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

“I bleed red and white; this football club has been a big part of my life. I spent 18 years here, and it really helped me develop into the person I am today.”