FORMER Sydney champion Adam Goodes has detailed the difficult final years of his glittering career, saying he now sees the positive in being racially vilified by a teenage girl in 2013.
Speaking on the 'What Matters' podcast, co-hosted by Swans chairman Andrew Pridham, Goodes says Australians are more open to talking about racism and "show empathy for Indigenous people and culture" that might not have been the case five years ago.
Goodes was abused by the 13-year-old in a round nine match against Collingwood in 2013, starting a chain of events that would ultimately lead to his retirement at the end of the 2015 season.
The dual Brownlow medallist says he now sees the positive.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," Goodes said.
"I'm glad that 13-year-old girl called me an ape that night because it has ended ... up to where we are today. Now I feel like we’re in a place today that five years ago we probably might not have been as a nation.
"The way we’re talking about racism, the way our kids in school are educating us about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - there is a true and real empathy for Indigenous people and culture, I feel at the moment."
After the 2013 vilification, Goodes was again in the spotlight in 2015 following an Indigenous round goal celebration against Carlton.
The dance, which Goodes explained at the time was inspired by the under-16 Flying Boomerangs team, sparked booing from the crowd that would follow him for the rest of his final season.
He said a match against West Coast in Perth in round 17 solidified things.
"It was just horrible over there and that’s where it all just hit me - that this is going to be my last year of football.
"I’m going to be booed all the way to the end, the final end. It just hit me. I just couldn’t fathom that would be the end of my career.
"I was happy to call it quits after that elimination final against North Melbourne.
"It just took a complete weight off my shoulders, and that weight was having to go to work for two hours and put up with that shit that was happening; that I couldn’t pinpoint who it was, I couldn’t see their faces, but it was just happening around me in my work environment.
"It doesn’t happen today. It doesn’t happen on the streets, never did."
In 2019, the AFL and all 18 clubs unreservedly apologised for their failure to adequately support Goodes from 2013 until the end of his career.