Sydney star Josh Kennedy believes the AFL’s community’s warmth is exemplified by its support for stricken Lance Franklin, but it remains to be seen whether the goodwill extends to fellow teammate Adam Goodes this weekend.
On Saturday, Goodes returns to Perth’s Domain Stadium for the first time since July 26 when the Swans champion was relentlessly booed by West Coast supporters whenever he touched the ball.
Worn down by recurring displays of vilification by opposing supporters, Goodes took a week off, missing the next match as he pondered his playing future, before returning buoyed by widespread backing from within the AFL and beyond.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon was among those to speak out, saying anyone who continued to boo Goodes would be stamping themselves as a racist and a bigot.
Lyon doesn’t expect Dockers fans to boo Goodes in Saturday’s qualifying final.
However, a specialist security team will be employed to monitor anti-social behaviour and any fans found to be involved in racial vilification will be ejected.
Although Goodes has copped some booing since the last Perth game it has been at a vastly reduced level.
“That was a big issue a few weeks ago and it could be ongoing or not,” Kennedy said on Thursday.
“But I think for us and for Adam it’s just about trying to get the job done and if we can win that’s going to be the best thing we can do for him and the footy club.”
If Sydney lose the next two weeks, the game at Domain Stadium could be Goodes’ last away fixture, if he decides to retire at the end of the season.
Kennedy was heartened by the scale of support from within AFL for Franklin, who is on indefinite leave due to a serious mental health condition.
He pointed to the way it reacted to a series of challenging and distressing events this season.
The AFL community showed its heart in responding to the slaying of Adelaide coach Phil Walsh and the deaths of St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt’s sister Madeleine and Hawthorn assistant Brett Ratten’s son Cooper.
There was also massive support for Neale Daniher’s battle with motor neurone disease and understanding shown towards Geelong’s Mitch Clark, who has issues with clinical depression.
“Throughout the year there’s been a lot of things that have come up and caused reason for AFL to get behind and support – whether it’s an individual or a team – and this is no surprise really,” Kennedy said.
“We are one family at the end of the day and it’s good to see.”
Midfielder Kennedy expressed hope that Franklin would soon be back with the Swans, though the club has stressed there is no time frame for his return.
“We want the best for him and we’re just happy he’s in good hands at the moment and hopefully he can get better as soon as possible and we can have him back,” Kennedy said.