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Adam Goodes Breaks His Silence

The retired Sydney Swans star struggled after enduring racial taunts, but found solace on his traditional land.

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In his first interview since retiring, former AFL superstar Adam Goodes has told Sydney University student newspaper Honi Soit that relentless booing and racism from spectators took an immense mental toll on him.

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"There came a point this year when I knew that it was going to be my last season," Goodes said, revealing that he had made the decision to retire two months before the end of the season.

"I think it’s [booing from spectators] one of many reasons. You know obviously my stand on racism is that it’s unacceptable and that we should always stand up to it."

"There was a lot of factors. And obviously with all the booing and everything, that was another piece of the puzzle that made my decision quite easy."

Goodes disappeared from the public gaze in July after being continuously booed during a game against the West Coast Eagles. Two men were evicted from the match, one yelling at Goodes to 'go back to the zoo.'

Sydney Swans

"I just needed to be around people who really understood how it felt to be in that position. For me, I just needed that support from those people so, it wasn’t until the day after that West Coast Eagle’s game that it really hit me, and I was really down and out and I didn’t want to go training on Monday," Goodes told Honi Soit.

The incident in Perth was the latest in a string abusive incidents aimed at Goodes, starting in 2013 when a 13-year-old girl called the dual Brownlow medallist an ape.

Following the Perth match, a deflated Goodes took leave from the game and went bush where he spent time on his ancestral lands.

"I just figured that, for me to get the best out of myself and do the right thing by myself, I really just needed to step away and find out what I really wanted to do and hopefully getting back to where my people are from and getting out bush could really re-energise me and help heal those wounds.

"Yeah that’s what I did, I went out country and it was amazing. It was just great to be out there."

Goodes says he was not going to come back from his break, but decided to return to play two more games before retiring officially last weekend.

"To be honest, I didn’t want to come back. But you know I did. And I felt better when I did. I just needed that support and the love of everyone at my football club and my partner, my family—that made it a little bit easier to come back," Goodes said.

"Obviously the booing didn’t stop, but I was able to be a lot stronger mentally and physically to deal with that for the last couple of months, knowing that it was going to be my last couple of months."

After retiring Goodes declined to take part in the traditional lap of honour for retiring AFL players. He also refused to be considered for an AFL Players Association award that recognises retiring players for their contribution

Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

"I was done. I was done a couple of months before that. I knew when I was finishing. I didn’t want, once I’d finished footy, to be part of any other things that I had a choice in," Goodes revealed.

"At the end of the day, it’s my choice to do the lap. At the end of the day, it was my choice not to be nominated for the Madden medal. I had my last football responsibility as the club Best and Fairest and that’s what I was looking for."

Now that his official AFL duties have been wrapped up Goodes says his future focus will be on pushing for constitutional recognition of Indigenous people, fighting racism and advocating for domestic violence victims.

"I’m also still going to keep up the fight for saying no to racism and making sure that we get constitutional recognition for our mob, and still going to be fighting hard for white ribbon, and really helping men take responsibility when we try to stop domestic violence against our women and our communities."

"The statistics are disgusting in our community [around domestic violence], and I think it should be a responsibility of every male to take a stance against it and to make sure we don’t do those horrible things. Because women are more than the people who raise our children, they are fantastic leaders in their own rights in our community, and we want to give them the same safe environment, as we would expect."

However before Goodes embarks on a new career he will be spending two months overseas to unwind, "I can’t wait to immerse myself in other people’s cultures and get lost for a couple of months with my girlfriend."

You can read the full interview at Honi Soit here.

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Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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