Eddie Betts: “I’m still going to be there” to support young Indigenous players

Betts will leave a long lasting legacy across Australian Football (Photo: Carlton FC/Jonathan Di Maggio)

There aren’t many players that have put smiles on faces and touched the hearts of the entire football community as Eddie Betts has.

Having amazed AFL fans right across the country with snaps from the boundary for 17 years which he made it look like a breeze, Eddie Betts has called time on his career after his 350th game against the Giants on Saturday night.

Although Betts’s legacy will be the way he’s called out the racism in our game and made sure that all Aboriginal players coming into the game feel safe and welcome.

Although he will have hung up the boots, that’s not something that Betts will be giving up any time soon. in fact, he is only just getting started.

Many young Indigenous players having come through the system have to move away from their support networks and comfort zone.

Betts spoke on Tuesday about how he and his wife Anna, they’ve always welcomed any young indigenous players into their home as they find their feet amongst all chaos that AFL Football can bring, which Betts has experienced first hand.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs,” Betts said.

“I’ve been arrested here In Victoria in the famous boat cruise, but there’s been a lot of challenges and having my family there and having my wife by my side the whole time just pulling me, was the one really driving my career forward and getting it back on the right track.

“I guess from then onwards I try and make myself and my teammates better especially the young Aboriginal kids that come into the system.”

“Me and my wife keep our house open for those young kids, we had Charlie Cameron live with us, Tyson Stengle and a lot of Aboriginal boys that played would come around and have a feed and a yarn and we’d chat to them and try to make them not feel homesick.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs but I wouldn’t change anything.”

Although Betts won’t be out on playing footy, he’ll still provide that support network to the young Aboriginal players and continue to use his voice to call out racism in Australia.

With Racism being as big of an issue as it is here in Australia, Betts again put the call out to Australia that he can’t do it alone. Imploring all communities to continue calling out racism and start those conversations.

“I feel like there’s still a lot of racism and this year there’s been a lot racism.

“It’s been draining and it’s been tiring and every year we see myself and the other aboriginal boys standing up trying to call it out trying to make a stance.

“Speaking to Gill 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.

” It has been really tough and really draining, that’s what I told everyone last week that I need everyones help, I’m not the one that’s going to make change.

“It’s not Aboriginal people here in Australia that’s going to make the change it’s you guys that are going to make the change. For people to start calling it out, having those conversations to friends, families and start having those conversations early in school.

“Nobody is born racist and I’ve always said that everybody has learned it along the way or heard it along the way somewhere so it all ways comes back to education, start those conversations, call it out because it’s the only way we’re going to move forward.

“When I’ve done footy I’m still going to be there for the rest of the Aboriginal boys that are still playing, I’m still going to help and  I’m still going to be their support, shoulder to lean on and I’ll still call it out even when I’m not playing footy, I’ll still use my voice and I’ll still try and make change.

” Like I said I can’t do it by myself I need everyone to chip in.”

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One thing is for certain, Betts is looking forward to sitting back and watching the likes of Kozzy Pickett and Charlie Cameron continue to light up stadiums across Australia for many years to come.

“It’s special,” he said.

“I spoke to Charlie before, I just texted him, and because he texted me thanking me on a wonderful career and me being a role model to him and for helping me at an early age.

“To see him blossom into what he’s doing now, it’s exciting it really is. The stuff that he’s doing now is crazy, you know he kicked six goals on the weekend up there.

“The Brisbane Lions are flying and that’s the team that we’re going to follow now these young Aboriginal boys and hoping they can put on a show.

As an excited elder of the game and the mob, while his time may be finishing, he is excited about watching that next generation of young indigenous talent come through and entertain for years to come.

“My time is done, Cyril Rioli’s time is done, you’ve got Kozzy Pickett coming through you’ve got Charlie Cameron coming through.

“You got these young Aboriginal boys that are exciting, the next generation that are going to put the bums on the seats that are going to bring people to the game because it’s so exciting just to watch them play and see what they do.

“I look at stuff they do and I think how do they do and I’m like how do they do that, I can’t do that’s crazy the things that Kozzy and Charlie I can do, take hangers kick goals.

“It’s pretty special to watch and I’m going to enjoy sitting down on the couch with my son  and watching these top players play.”

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