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AFL star Adam Goodes opens up on family, footy, and friendship

The AFL legend has returned to the spotlight to leave a lasting impact
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CONTENT WARNING: This article includes the names and images of First Nations people who are deceased.

Australian sporting icon Adam Goodes has revealed his one regret in life following the shock death of his beloved mother last year.

Adam, 43, spoke about the moment he realised the trauma his late mum Lisa Sansbury had gone through as part of the Stolen Generation in a rare, new interview.

“I like to live my life with no regrets,” Adam told English football star Rio Ferdinand on his Get Real With Rio series.

Goodes has opened up in a rare interview.

(Image: Getty)

“Unfortunately, she lived a really tough life… she was taken away when she was five and put into a white family like a lot of her siblings were and she didn’t know at the time that she was one of 10 [children], never to reconnect with her mother and father again.”

“As a father… it just breaks my heart to think that she was living in fear her whole life that someone could knock on the door and take her kids away at any moment if she wasn’t doing the right thing by us kids.”

Goodes’ mother Lisa designed the Indigenous guernsey for the Sydney Swans.

(Image: Getty)


Lisa, who passed away aged 62 following a heart attack in February 2022, played a prominent role at some of Adam’s biggest moments in sport, famously helping wipe away his tears when he accepted the Australian of the Year award in 2014.

The dual Brownlow medallist and Sydney Swans premiership player says he regularly thinks about what his life would have been like if his mother hadn’t been removed from her family as a child.

“If I could go back and change something, I would have loved to go back into my mother’s life and, in that moment, change the fact that she was [taken away],” he said.

“And if that meant I might never have played professional sports, if it meant that I might not even be alive today, just that moment knowing my mum was still connected to her family and didn’t have to live the life that she lived… I wish I could do that for the old girl.”

Goodes’ mother Lisa sadly passed away in early 2022.

(Image: Getty)

The Indigenous star, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight since retiring from the Swans after the infamous booing saga in 2015, has been consistently vocal about the impact of racism on his family, career and mental health.

“It happened all the time, whether it be school, whether it be at the football teams that I played, and even at the elite level on and off the field, it was just part of my life,” Adam said. “The best advice I got from my mum was… just walk away.”

“I learned later in life that when I had the confidence, and more importantly, I became articulate, I could actually confront it in my way. And that’s when I started to call out racism – where it comes from, how it’s used, and more importantly, how it makes us feel.”

WATCH: Adam Goodes calls out the 12-year-old girl who called him an “ape.” Article continues after video.

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Since retiring from professional sport, Adam has largely chosen to stay away from many official AFL events and instead focus on supporting Indigenous youth through his charity, GO Foundation, and a series of children’s books about First Nations history.

He’s determined to leave a lasting legacy. “If I’m only known for football, then I’ve failed,” Adam said, noting this was the mantra he had stuck on his club locker for five years. I’ve got a long amount of years to have an impact 
and to do something good with my life.”

“I’m really proud that everything I do is paying 
back to who I am as an Indigenous person.”

Last month, Adam’s former club, the Sydney Swans, paid tribute to his incredible 18-year career, unveiling a bronze sculpture of him outside its headquarters in Moore Park, Sydney.

He has reportedly knocked back multiple invitations to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, where if accepted, he could one day be elevated to legend status.

While family life in Bondi, NSW, looks a little quieter than the days of intense training and match day glory, Adam is devoted to his pregnant wife Natalie and their two young children.

“My focus is my family… I sacrificed having children when I was playing,” he said. “[They’re] the legacy I want to leave, the children I bring into the world and the impact they go on to have.”

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