Dangerfield backs Yes vote and AFL’s right to campaign on Voice
Geelong captain and AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield has backed the AFL’s right to support the Yes campaign for an Indigenous voice to parliament.
But the Cats skipper also warned the AFL must realise it does not have all the answers to difficult social questions, as AFL boss Gillon McLachlan defended the league’s right to take a stand on social issues.
“We must continue to find ways to shine a light on marginalised sections of the community,” Dangerfield said.
“As a code and a club and as a league, we have still got areas that we can improve vastly around all levels of support that we provide, but I think this [a voice to parliament] is certainly a step in the right direction.”
The Geelong skipper said he supported the Yes vote but respected each individual’s right to make their own call.
Patrick Dangerfield has defended the AFL’s right to support the establishment of a Voice to parliament.Credit:Getty Images
Sporting codes are preparing to unite and campaign for the Yes vote at a potential referendum in October, with the AFL undertaking a consultation process before committing to its position.
At last week’s AFL season launch McLachlan said the competition would not stop taking the lead on social issues, saying it does not “lecture or tell others what to do”.
“We make it known what we stand for, the AFL and our clubs,” McLachlan said.
In the AFL Fans Association’s annual player survey, published in The Age this month, some fans criticised what they described as a “woke agenda”, even though most fans supported pride rounds and the league’s work to stamp out racism in football.
League representatives have been visiting clubs, making presentations to players and staff on the complex issues surrounding the Voice, and taking questions. They have emphasised in the forums that their role is to provide information, rather than direct people to vote in a certain way.
AFL executive Tanya Hosch has been discussing the Voice to parliament with clubs.Credit:AFL Photos
The proposed Voice would operate as an advisory body to parliamentarians, enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to provide advice on laws and policies that impact them.
The AFL claims to be aware of the potential pressure players can feel if it takes a league-wide position on such issues, which is why it is taking time for consultation before a recommendation is made to the AFL Commission.
“The AFL is undergoing a consultation process with stakeholders from across the industry regarding the Voice to parliament referendum in 2023. Once that process is completed, the AFL’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council will make a recommendation to the AFL Commission,” a spokesperson said.
The AFL declared its support for the Yes vote ahead of the 2017 plebiscite on same-sex marriage, changing the sign at the front of AFL headquarters to “YES”.
Dangerfield is one of the most respected figures in the sport, and has taken over from Joel Selwood as Geelong skipper after helping the club defy expectations to win last year’s premiership.
The Cats start their premiership defence against Collingwood at the MCG on Friday night.
The 32-year-old silenced any questions about his finals record with two brilliant performances in last year’s preliminary and grand finals as the Cats won their first flag since 2011.
Dangerfield played 18 games in 2022 but did not play more than five consecutive matches throughout the season, which allowed him to head into finals with fresh legs for the first time in several seasons.
Dangerfield said he was prepared to adopt a similar approach in 2023, although no plans were set in stone.
“I will prepare to play every game. [But] the ideal scenario is for the coaches to make the call [that] ‘nah, we reckon it’s time to have a rest this week’ or ‘we will pull you back this week’ rather than ever try to plan rests,” Dangerfield said.
He admitted he still wanted to play every week, but had developed a greater appreciation for the value of rest later in his career, with Geelong’s added depth last season helping them perform when he was out.
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