HAVING played 145 games of senior football, I have been able to have many great experiences. Playing for Essendon in many of the marquee games like the Anzac Day games and the Dreamtime games gave me insight into the power of football. Starting football with the Bombers in 2004, I played for 10 years and I was lucky to play at a time where racism was outlawed under the vilification code with Rule 30 then Rule 35.
Other players who came before me were not so fortunate. Perhaps the biggest incident was the one that occurred to Nicky Winmar back in 1993 where he was vilified after the round four game at Collingwood’s home ground, Victoria Park. As a rookie-listed player with the Pies, I got to play at Victoria Park where my uncle Wally Lovett played as a half forward. I played reserves on that famous oval and often I would look around and imagine what it must have been like back in the day and especially on the day Nicky gave us that iconic image. It still sends shivers down my spine. Nicky for me was a black Superman. A champion.
I now work at St Kilda as a Indigenous Liaison officer and in the last 18 months I have been working closely with film-maker Peter Dickson to make the latest documentary on Nicky and racism in football, it’s called The Ripple Effect. I would put The Ripple Effect up there with some of my greatest achievements.
At its heart is the story of Nicky and the photographer Wayne Ludbey, who was thoughtful enough to notice the reaction Nicky was getting as he came off the ground having played a blinder. Gilbert McAdam and Nicky starred that day and despite the historic win over the Pies the Collingwood social club erupted into a torrent of abuse. Winmar responded in the only way he could. He was dignified and classy in his response. The same cannot be said of the crowd.
By looking back at the past we can journey into the future and using that moment enables us to understand. To forget or ignore it is not an option just as getting called a name demands a response. I have copped it all my life and I have acted out. Hopefully with this film people can engage their minds and hearts before they say something or put something vile on social media.
For First Nations people and Australians of colour the film is about education. Educating the children so they can grow into adults who don’t use words or stereotypes to hurt people. The problem I have with racism is it is tiring. It saps the energy out of you, your soul and the people around you who you love as they cannot change the thing that defines them. That fatigue chews away at your mental health and can lead you into dark spaces that many cannot get out of. I have seen many family and friends go into this space and to witness it only creates more pain. Intergenerational trauma it’s called.
But the overriding positive out of the film is it is inspirational. Without hope one is lost but inspiration is like the greatest motivator and helps people get through. It helps me connect with country and the stories contained within it. It helps us stay strong when all the statistics about First Nations people are pretty bad.
One only has to look back and see the toll that racism has had on Adam Goodes to truly understand what is a stake when it comes to football and a nation that loves its Indigenous game. The game is for everyone and this documentary is also for everyone. I would ask you watch it and talk about it with your family and friends. Because that at the end of day is what needs to happen if we are to get better as a nation, a nation that needs to heal and with time it will.