'Not safe': Heartbreaking realisation in Eddie Betts' retirement

·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Eddie Betts will retire from the AFL after his 350th match.
Eddie Betts has announced his retirement from the AFL, believing the league to be 'not safe' for Indigenous players. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Eddie Betts believes the AFL is 'not safe' for up and coming Indigenous players as he looks to follow in the footsteps of former AFL champion Adam Goodes in his retirement.

The Carlton and Adelaide Crows legend will play his 350th and final game this weekend, bringing to an end one of the most exciting careers of the 2000s.

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While Betts will be remembered fondly for his incredible achievements on the field, the 34-year-old said it was clear the league in which he had played in since 2004 had serious flaws which needed to be addressed.

Betts says he is most proud of his five children and efforts to call out racism, rather than any of the countless highlights, 638 goals or 166 wins spread across 16 seasons.

Among the loudest voices in the AFL world when it comes to confronting racism, Betts said it was plain to see much more work needed to be done following the six-week ban handed to his former teammate, Taylor Walker, over a racial slur he used while spectating a reserves match.

"I don't feel like it's safe at the moment," Betts said.

"I feel like there's still a lot of racism.

"This year there has been a lot of racism. It's been draining and it's been tiring.

"Every year we've seen myself and the other Aboriginal boys standing up, trying to call it out, trying to make a stance.

"Speaking to Gil (AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan) recently, we've got to be stronger, we've got to somehow catch these people.

"And keep them accountable for what they say online or over the fence."

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Betts noted it was Goodes' activism that helped him find his own voice and "believe in myself, that I had the strength and courage to stamp out racism".

Goodes was routinely booed by crowds throughout his final few seasons, with the AFL belatedly apologising for its lack of action during an unfitting end to the champion's 372-game career.

Betts, who revealed plans to launch his own foundation to help "Aboriginal kids achieve their goals, dreams and be leaders in whatever aspect they want to", and Goodes spoke for approximately half an hour last week.

"Just getting some advice and seeing how he dealt with it and how he felt," Betts said.

"I told him I'm going to hang up the boots.

"He gave me some support and guidance and said, 'mate, the next chapter of your life is going to be pretty special'."

Eddie Betts' Carlton teammate donned special shirts at training to honour the Indigenous star before his 350th and final AFL game. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Eddie Betts' Carlton teammate donned special shirts at training to honour the Indigenous star before his 350th and final AFL game. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The AFL, responding to Walker's suspension, has flagged plans to beef up sanctions and player education while forcing every club to employ a full-time Indigenous liaison officer.

Betts is among several AFL players to have been targeted with racist abuse by trolls on social media during recent seasons.

"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," he said.

"Because nobody is born racist. Everyone's learned it along the way somewhere or heard it.

"I'll still call it out, even when I'm not playing footy. I'll still use my voice.

"I'm still going to be there for the rest of the Aboriginal boys who are playing. I'm still going to help them, going to be their support, shoulder to lean on."

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