Australia

My mate Eddie is going out a great of the game — but now he needs our help

What can be said about Eddie Betts that hasn’t already been articulated?

This is a man that has to be on the Mt Rushmore of “Most Universally Loved Players” as he pulls the curtain on his career.

Let’s start with what he has done on the field. He’ll finish with 350 games, becoming only the 19th player in AFL/VFL history to reach that mark and only the third Aboriginal player behind Adam Goodes and Shaun Burgoyne.

He’s kicked 638 goals so far, with four of them awarded goal of the year. Throw in three All Australian selections and you have a career that stacks up against any.

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Eddie Betts calls for safer environment for Indigenous AFL players

He’s one of the greatest forwards to have played the game — for him to achieve all of this after being picked up in a pre-season draft is an amazing achievement and a testament to his hard work and perseverance.

The joy that Eddie brings to the Australian public cannot be undersold.

His amazing goals and brilliant marks have lit up millions of faces, and who could forget the children’s books Eddie’s Little Homies, written so wonderfully and used as a tool for reconciliation. What a substantial legacy and impact he leaves behind.

One of the things that Eddie will be most remembered for is the way he’s continually stood up against racism.

Through it all he’s kept that wonderful smile, despite the sometimes obvious pain in his eyes.

Tony Armstrong has his arm around Eddie Betts while holding a round ball. They are both smiling
Eddie Betts will go out one of the most beloved and respected players in the game.(

Getty Images: Michael Dodge

)

It’s fantastic to have someone in the Indigenous community willing to use their platform to lead change, like we’ve seen with Goodes, Michael Long, Andrew McLeod and many others before him.

The thing that has stood out this week is that despite Eddie’s amazing career and incredible CV, half the conversation has been about racism and its impact.

It’s another layer on top of everything that he has had to deal with along the way. He can’t even take his farewell lap without talking about matters of race or being expected to provide definitive answers about where the sport is at with racism.

Eddie, as he so often does, has approached the task with the kind of grace and humility that we have come to expect. He’s even been quoted this week as wanting to move into that space post-football and be a champion for change, playing a big role in the AFL’s push to try to end racism.

The thing that strikes me — and Ed hasn’t asked me to write any of this — is that we don’t seem to see too many (if any) non-Indigenous players doing the same once they’re finished with footy.

AFL player with his hand on his chest after scoring a goal during a match
Eddie Betts finish his career with 350 games played.(

Getty: Cameron Spencer

)

We don’t tend to see the other great champions of the game being asked these questions when they hang up the boots.

Eddie said last week in the wake of the Taylor Walker incident, “I’m not the one that’s going to make change. It’s not on Aboriginal people here in Australia … we need everyone to chip in.”

Truer words have never been spoken. We know Eddie will keep standing up against racism because that is who he is.

I can’t wait to see what’s next for Eddie, his wife Anna and their beautiful kids. I hope that Eddie goes out this weekend and kicks six snags so that we can all be witness to his brilliance one more time.

But even more than that, I hope everyone else heeds his call to arms in the fight against racism — because too much continues to be left to too few.

And as Eddie says, he’s tired.


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