Betts: I want 2018 to be free of racism
EDDIE Betts hopes he has endured the last of match-day racial vilification but concedes a third straight season of anti-social behaviour would cut deep and is "not on".
Adelaide's resident marvel and cult figure embarks on a 14th AFL season in Saturday's JLT series opener against Fremantle at Strathalbyn. Triple All-Australian Betts wants to believe vilification from the terraces has been stamped out.
"It still does affect me but this doesn't just happen in footy but life in general and we just need to stop it. AFL is a big platform to stamp out racism so to see it still happening - not by players but spectators - is not on to be honest," said 277-game veteran Betts.
"That is all it comes to down to education. It won't stop my love of footy.
"It has happened the last two years so we are going to have to wait and see."
Betts, 31, has been prepared to wear the brunt of racial taunts if it weeded out remnants of the ignorant or uneducated and has the scars for his troubles.
"I have said some of the indigenous players I am happy to cop it for everybody to learn. If I cop it and it makes everyone else learn a bit more about it I am happy," said Betts.
"It is a tough one. To be honest I don't think it is going to keep happening. I think people are more smarter and educated now. If it happens this year I will be very disappointed because it is something that needs to stop."
A Port fan threw a banana at Betts in the August 2016 Showdown at Adelaide Oval and was banned for life. The Power suspended the membership of another fan for allegedly calling Betts an ape during the April Showdown last year.
Forgiving Betts says acts that have caused his family continued angst must be viewed in isolation and not representative of the wider community.
"It is one person that makes it harder for everyone else. It is just that one moron that makes it bad for everyone else and paints that group with that picture," said Betts.
"It's a few idiots at the footy that are perhaps on the alcohol and get themselves in trouble."
While Betts continues on his mission for off-field tolerance, the game's premier small forward wants AFL clubs to improve support for indigenous recruits.
Betts has called for indigenous liaison officers at all AFL clubs to deal with peak numbers of indigenous talent and avoid the loss of talent like former Richmond and Carlton defender Chris Yarran.
"It is and great to see a lot of indigenous players get drafted and sad to see a lot of them go. These young indigenous kids come from remote communities and a comfortable environment and then they get homesick," said Betts, the AFL's leading role model for Aboriginal players.
Betts escaped a troubled youth in Port Lincoln ravaged by substance issues and notes football 'saved him' despite some early adjustment problems at Carlton.
"It is important that every club has an indigenous liaison officer because it is tough. There is a lot of stress on this indigenous kids when they are drafted. Being indigenous myself I know that," said Betts.
Betts was tight with Yarran while at Carlton until 2013 and lamented how his close mate succumbed to an ice addiction before leaving football in November 2016.
Fremantle's Harley Bennell is another gifted indigenous talent who has struggled to realise potential.
AFL Players Association general manager of development Brett Johnson said The AFLPA worked closely with the AFLPA indigenous Player Advisory Board and the AFL's indigenous Advisory Group to take an industry approach to "improving the AFL landscape for current and future generations of players."
"It's important that we're continually working to create environments that promote on-field excellence and the long-term personal growth and wellbeing for all," Johnson said.
Only a third of AFL clubs have indigenous liaison officers, who are worth their weight in gold insists Betts.
"It is tough. I guess it is making smart decisions. If you are hurting you have to speak up, a senior player or liaison officer, these are the guys you can lean on," said Betts.
"That is why I preach to the AFL to get an liaison officer at each club. It helps their growth and keep them in the game a lot longer.
"I had to go through this with one of my great mates Chris Yarran. He had a three-year contract but left through depression. It was hard for me to see such a talented player pack up and leave.
"They just have to keep their head up and keep going and let their actions speak on the field."