As I watched, memories came flooding back. I recalled all the times I had been treated differently because of my Aboriginality.
I recalled issues of being with my friends and family and the bullying at school, being shouted at by strangers when walking down the street and going into a sports stores and being followed around by security.
I recalled all the discussions I’ve had with my family about racism and the many forms that it takes. What they had to endure and how they handled it. The fights on the footy field. The punch-ups in pubs. The heated words and stony silences in the workplace.
I thought of my heroes, especially Nicky Winmar, way back in 1993, pulling up his St Kilda jumper and pointing to his skin in a dignified reply to those fans who did not deserve such a classy response.
I thought about all my family and friends and the stories they’ve told me about how talented their uncle or cousin was, and how they could have played footy at the top level, but their lives had been blunted by the language and perspectives of ignorant people. It saw them decide against pursuing their football dream.
I have thought a great deal about The Final Quarter since I watched it.
On the positive side, I have thought about how far we have come in tackling racism on the field. But I keep coming back to how far we need to still travel. This is why we have created the Indigenous Player Alliance to continue the conversation in a way that brings Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the table.
I have thought deeply about the booing of Adam, and how long it went on for. The footy field is no place for the faint-hearted. Courage, for me, is perhaps the greatest trait any footballer can display. You are totally exposed out there.
Goodes was totally exposed for too long yet he showed immense courage and character in the face of a swirling cauldron of hateful noise. An ignorant roar that went on for four quarters, week in, week out.
The fact that Adam played on and withstood it for as long as he did says much about the strength of the man, and what he represents. It says everything that is great about him, and what he did for our game and our people.
This period was a shameful stain on a game that I’ve loved since I can remember.
As a kid growing up in Merredin, some 250 clicks north-east of Perth, I was obsessed with football. This only intensified when my family headed from the wheat belt to Perth at the age of 11.
My heroes were Winmar and West Coast champions Chris Lewis and Peter Matera. I would watch these players and try to emulate them. They could turn games with just a few touches. But I also saw how much they copped because they were Blackfellas.
Without the protection players now have with the anti-vilification laws – rule 35 – the fact they kept going said a lot about them.
This was not lost on me. I knew it was going to take more than just being a good footballer to get me through. It was going to take mental toughness and resilience.
I was drafted in 1998 by the Brisbane Lions, becoming the first Aboriginal No. 1 draft pick. I won a premiership with the Lions and then came back to Perth to play for Fremantle, retiring after a total of 166 games.
Footy has been good to me and continues to give me opportunities.
But it did take mental toughness and resilience to play at the highest level, and seeing The Final Quarter made me realise that no one has displayed those traits better than Adam Goodes.
As a Whadjuk Yuat Noongar, and someone who is passionate about football, all I ask is that you go and watch the film. Talk about it and discuss it with your friends and family.
Take note of how you feel, and through that process let’s ensure that this type of thing never occurs again to anyone.
Des Headland is the chair of the Indigenous Player Alliance that advocates on behalf of the
Indigenous men and women who have played in the AFL and AFLW.