Foveaux St mural celebrates football champ Adam Goodes
By ALEC SMART
A large mural of talented Aussie Rules football player Adam Goodes graces the side of a building on the corner of Foveaux and Crown streets in Surry Hills. Less than 1km from the SCG, the Sydney Swans’ home ground, fans can walk past it on their route between Central Station and their team’s home games.
Photo: Alec Smart
Adam Goodes, 2014 Australian of the Year, dual Brownlow Medal recipient and two-time grand final winner with Sydney Swans football team, played a record 372 games in the national premiership from 1999 to 2015 - all for the Sydney Swans. During that time he kicked 464 goals.
However, despite twice winning the Brownlow Medals for sporting excellence, the football league’s highest honour (in 2003 and 2006, respectively), Goodes was subjected to sustained racism and retired early at the end of the 2015 season.
Goodes is of Indigenous heritage through his mother’s Aboriginal ancestry (Adnyamathanha and Narungga clans, from the Flinders Ranges and Yorke Peninsula, respectively).
In June 2021, Goodes turned down an invitation by the Australian Football League (AFL) to induct him in their Hall of Fame of legendary players. This is attributable to the racial harassment that dogged the latter years of his career, which the AFL leadership eventually admitted they were negligent in suppressing.
The racial harassment, launched and perpetuated by several high-profile conservative commentators in the media, spread to hostile spectators who continuously booed his on-field playing.
Goodes was also repeatedly condemned for campaigning on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and, among other things, criticised for suggesting that the game of Aussie Rules may have been inspired by an historic Aboriginal game.
Photo: Alec Smart
Goodes wrote an essay in which he speculated that the modern game may have been derived from the Aboriginal ‘Marn Grook’, which significantly predates it.
In 1859, when Aussie Rules was founded by Tom Wills in Victoria, Indigenous clans across south-eastern Australia played a competitive type of football known as ‘Marn Grook’ (from a Woiwurrung or Gunditjmara word meaning ‘ball game’).
Although no goals were scored, the ball (typically a stuffed animal skin) was kicked back and forth between two rival teams and ‘marked’ – coincidentally called a ‘mumarki’ – for a free kick by whomever caught it in the air.
Tom Wills spent his high school years at Rugby School in England, where he played an early version of the game we now know as rugby football. When he returned to Australia, he devised a version of football – the first in the world to be formally codified - that would keep cricketers active during the winter months. Central to the competition, players kicked a ball back and forth and caught it for a ‘mark’.
As a boy, Wills socialised with the Djab Wurrung Aborigines living near his family farm in The Grampians. Wills also spoke their language and almost certainly watched his Indigenous neighbours playing Marn Grook.
The AFL, along with many sports’ historians, now agree Marn Grook influenced Aussie Rules and in June 2019 they issued an official statement confirming this.
Aboriginal campsite 1857 - in the background a game of Marn Grook is being played. Illustration by Gustav Mutzel
The Surry Hills mural of Goodes, completed on 11 June 2020, took five artists eight hours to complete. The artists were from Apparition Media advertising agency and art studio, which paid for the commission.
They achieved the three-storey high portrait whilst stood on the extendable platform of a cherry-picker. The mural is based on a 2010 photo taken by Getty Images’ chief photographer Ryan Pierse.
Apparition Media, Australia’s leading agency specialising in hand-painted advertising, approached the landlord of the building at 120 Foveaux St in late 2019 for permission. Luckily the landlord happens to be a Swans fan, and consent was given to decorate the north-facing exterior wall. (However, it took four months for Covid-19 restrictions to be eased before the artists were able to commence the painting).
Apparition are also responsible for the mural of Goodes’ team mate Buddy Franklin at 245 Bondi Rd, near the beach.
Photo: Alec Smart