Indigenous Australians have given us some of our greatest football champions. With names like Farmer, Winmar, Long, Rioli and Goodes, the stories of Indigenous footballers are some of the most compelling in the great game of AFL. The journey for some has been one of great struggle and difficulty. For them, football was the only way out.
What makes their stories so important? This set of biographies uses the players’ own descriptions of their lives, their careers and the people who helped them achieve success. While some of these players have shared experiences, for others the story was different. All are inspirational.
From Farmer to McLeod, and Jackson to Matera, in the tradition of great Australian storytelling, these men’s lives are great Australian stories about Aboriginal Football Legends!
Dr Sean Gorman is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University, Western Australia. He is the lead investigator on research into the AFL’s vilification laws and policies. He has had a long relationship with many of the players. His previous book, Brotherboys sold widely and was adapted for theatre.
Reviews and endorsements
‘This book, with its fine introductory essay, and terrific profiles of these champions, should be in every Australian home. It celebrates these men we know as footballers, but presents them as real people. It shows how the political and cultural forces of their day had an impact on them. No punches are pulled. And, importantly, it shows the impact these players have had, through their prominence and courage, on those very forces.’
— John Harms, The Footy Almanac
‘Sean Gorman is fully alive to both the game of Australian football and the nuances of the history that surrounds it and he writes about them with unalloyed passion. This salute to the great Indigenous players of the 20th century is not only to be valued for its rare insights but also enjoyed as good, gutsy footy writing.’
— Martin Flanagan, columnist for The Age
'I think this book is a fantastic idea because it shows all the different stories of the champions who have played football at the elite level and the difficulties and challenges they faced getting there. I think it will help Indigenous Australians feel proud about the achievements of the players in the side and it will help non Indigenous Australians understand what it means to be an Indigenous person living in Australia.'
— Mick O’Loughlin, former Sydney Swans player
'I think being Australian and recognising what it means to be Australian is very important. I think this book is good for all Australians because it will help show just what these players were able to do and share in the feats of those fantastic players.'
— Adam Goodes, AFL player for the Sydney Swans
'This is just the ticket for football fans or anybody interested in the wider historical and social issues the sport incorporates, Sean Gorman who teaches at Curtin University in Perth, provides crisp, Short biographies of the 25 players in the team who – drawing on Michael Long’s observation that “sport has been our greatest ally” – demonstrate the ways the players themselves benefited from football but also how they enhanced and changed the game. And, in the case of Long, courageously changed the whole culture of the game, his actions famously resulting in the AFL’s rule 30, the anti-vilification law. From trailblazers such as Pastor Doug Nicholls (rejected by Carlton because he was thought to be unclean) and the incomparable Polly Farmer to the likes of Maurice Rioli, Nicky Winmar and Jim Krakouer, right up to Adam Goodes, these profiles amount to an entertaining, informative and enlightening team portrait.'
— Steven Carroll, The Saturday Age, 20 August 2011
'The stories are more than just football. It’s about where they came from, their families, their struggles, successes and failures. It parallels how the Aboriginal rights movement matured, illustrated by Winmar pointing to his black skin in front of the Collingwood crowd in 1993 and Michael Long’s brave stance against racism, which Gorman describes as a “tipping point” against vilification in the AFL. Overall, it is a positive story. “Knowing the back stories I was mindful this could have been just another document looking at victimhood and negativity and I didn’t want it to be that,” he says. “I wanted indigenous kids, girls and boys, to read it and have a sense of pride and positivity about those sorts of things.'
— Bevan Eakins, The Weekend West, September 3-4, 2011
'Gorman, a research fellow at Curtin University’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies, travelled far and wide to conduct interviews with team members at home or in a familiar environment. The stories of the players are brought to us in their own words. While a number of common themes emerge, there are many personal insights into the individual. As Gorman says in his excellent introductory chapter, “football stories provide a starting point for other conversations”.
The players speak of the honour to be chosen in the team and pay glowing tribute to their families and to indigenous players who have gone before.
Legends: The AFL Indigenous team of the century is a marvellous work of oral history about the lives and careers of men who are not only the best Aboriginal footballers, but among the best footballers who have ever played the game.'
— Peter Crossing, The Canberra Times, 'Panorama,' Saturday September 3, 2011