5 June 2014, Crown Palladium, Melbourne, Australia
Whateley: Twice he went to grand final day, on both occasions we walked away with the Norm Smith Medal, along with the premiership medallion. Andrew McLeod, welcome to the hall of fame. Tell me Andrew, when notification of this arrived, what did you go through? What were your emotions?
It was quite interesting, I was heading out the door with my wife, and I can't remember where we were going, and something caught my eye in the letter box. So, I marched over and grabbed it, and I get a lot of mail from the AFL being a 300 game player, and I looked at the letter and I saw Tony Peek's name on the back, and I went: "Geez, I don't often get mail from Tony Peek, so something's going on." And I walked back to the car, and my wife Rachel was sitting in the passenger seat, and I handed her the letter, and said: "You better open this, because if I do, I think I'm going to cry." So, I got her to open I, and she was like: "What are you going to cry for? What's going on?" And I said: "Well, have a look at the letter." I'm like: "No duh, Tony Peek."
And she opened the letter and started reading it, and for about ... I guess it's like a bit like when you were ... When the premiership, that first 15 seconds, just the emotion of it. And all these thoughts went through my head, freaked out, there was a couple of tears. And yeah, I just was like: "I've got to ring my dad." You know, so that was probably my first instance ... My first instinct, from there, ring my dad, tell him about it. And yeah, like I said, then after that emotion had settled down, I was like: "Phew."
Whateley: Does it hit home, how far you've come? A displaced family after cyclone Tracey and Katherine. All the way to presenting before the United Nations, honoured backer footballer, and here you are in the hall of fame, it's quite the journey.
It is, yeah I often think back and go: "Well, wow." You know, a little pudgy boy from Katherine, growing up and you know, got the opportunity to follow a dream, play on a bigger stage that I could ever have imagined. And you know, play a game, I loved it for my career of 16 years, I couldn't ask for anything better. And I've got this thing in my head that, one of my mates was mentioning before about my brother always said ... My dad said to me when I was a young bloke, that you can't eat footballs, and you know, can't be a footballer as a career, but I proved him wrong.
Whateley: Your football journey actually goes back through the generations. The Genesis is your great-grandfather.
It is, and my great-grandfather was one of the first Aboriginal [inaudible 00:03:54] players to be registered to play. You know, back in the Territory, back in the early 1900s, his name, or my family name - the Amat name is emblazoned on the entrance gates at TIO Stadium, it's named after my great-grandfather. So, I guess it was inevitable that I was going to play footy, you know, he played for the Darwin Buffalos, or back in the day they changed names a lot of times, the Vestey's, now the meat works was part of that. And yeah, I guess it's one of those things you don't realise until you're a bit older, that I guess what that impact is on you as a person. But back in those early days, you know, he paved the way for myself and a lot of the other guys that've come through.
Whateley: And did you always have a strong sense, when you played, that you were representing your community?
Oh, always, you know. Coming from the Territory, I was pretty lucky in ... My favourite player was Michael McLean, growing up - Magic McLean. And he's married to my cousin, so I was pretty fortunate that at Christmas lunches, I got a bit of time with him. And I was just a pest I guess, and asking him 100 million questions about footy and what it's like to play in the big smoke. And he was real good to me, and then I had guys like Maurice Rioli to look up to. Michael Long, who I saw here earlier, Gilbert McAdam, Darryl White, and the like, that were fantastic role models for me. And you know, when I got the opportunity to pursue my dream and a career in footy, I want to be just as good a role model as those blokes were. So, it was something that ... And because of, you know, the impact that my family have had, and my grandfather and his story as well, that it's important for me to be able to ... A little snotty nosed kid from the Territory, that I could actually do something, and give other kids the aspiration to be able to reach their dreams.
Whateley: You're a beautiful footballer to watch, and I don't doubt it was exhilarating to play. Can you put us inside it, when it all lined up for you. Was it like playing the game in slow motion?
Yeah, it was in certain times. It's one of those things I get ... I think as a footballer, you love to be able to bottle those moments, when you're caught in certain periods in my career that ... And games and moments where everything was in slow motion, and I think that's when ... For me, it's when I played my best football. There was always ... I felt like ... It felt like I was one step ahead all the time, and I could read the play, and I knew where the ball was going to go. And you know, I was fortunate enough ... I wish I could have produced more of those moments, as we all do. You know, in our careers, that didn't happen as often as you'd liked it to do, but in those moments when it did happen, you know, you almost felt like you were unstoppable. But you know, you could ... And that's what footy did to you, and that's ... I mean, that's what I did in the living room in my moms and dad's house, when I used to break my moms vases growing up, kicking socks around the house, and in the back yard breaking their palm trees, and used to get sworn at out the back window.
But that's just the things that I was doing as a kid, in the back yard. And when I played, you know, on some of the biggest stages in the world, in terms of the MCG, or at AMI stadium, or wherever that was. It just felt like I was doing ... I was recreating those moments, that I was playing as a kid.
Whateley: And those two grand finals, which are such a part of the focal aura of your career. Two Norm Smith Medals, and playing in front of 100 000 people, which would have been more than the whole population of where you grew up. How do you reflect on those two memorable days?
I was very lucky that, you know, we obviously had Malcolm at the time, who was just fantastic in ... One: being able to put things into perspective, and give you confidence, and allow you to go out and be calm. But that was one thing in the grand finals, I wasn't ... I was never really nervous when I played in the GFs, I was quite comfortable, because like I was about playing those games, I've played in 100 grand finals, in my Mum's lounge room. And, you know, I'd been there before, so I knew what to expect, sort of. But until that moment, and you walk out onto the MCG, and there's nearly 100 000 people, and the first thing I did was go: "Wow, there's more people here than where I live, than where I come from." And that was the most scary thing, and then it was like: "Oh, what did Blighty say?"
You've got to soak it all up and embrace it, and don't get caught in the moment, but yeah it was just fantastic days. And like, you go out there and for me as a ... And the other thing too, was the pressure I always felt because, the only two guys that have ever played in the grand final before me, one was named Maurice Rioli, one was named Michael Long, and they both won Norm Smith Medals. So, I sort of felt that pressure a little bit, but I think it is nice to be able to embrace it. And them, two of my great idols growing up, how good would it be to be able to emulate that.
Whateley: And emulate it, you did. You've left us with so many great memories, maybe a thank you or two as you finish.
Yeah, I would ... Yeah, I think I better thank my wife first because she's an integral part of obviously, my life and from growing up in Katherine and ... Sorry, in Darwin, and going to school together. You know, as a young bloke, and we embarked on this dream, I was a bit wet behind the ears, didn't know what was going to happen. And a bit like some of the other guys who I just wanted to play one game, and I was lucky to play it for 16 years. And you know, my wife has been a special part of that, and I thank her dearly. She's ridden a lot of the highs and the lows, and you know, she's ... I guess she's my rock as well.
To my two beautiful children, you know they ... It's one of those things in your footy career, when you have children, and before that everything is about yourself, and the way that you go about it, and your preparation. And trying to do everything you can, and then your kids come along and then you find yourself, you know, getting inspired and fired up by the Wiggles, or something like that. You find out quickly that you're not that important. So, my children, they keep me humble and grounded, and I'm just dad to them, and that's what I love about it.
To my mum and dad, who I guess I'm indebted to, I owe a lot to. They drove me to training as a kid, and gave me the opportunity to pursue a dream, and to ... You know, they just ... They sacrificed so much, and I do wish my mum was here to be able to share in this moment.
But also to my brother, who's not here, I wish he was here but my brother is one of those people that puts things into perspective a lot. And when I told him I was getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, he said: "I already thought you were there." But like most big brothers, I always wanted to be like him, and he was my hero.
Who else have I got? Oh, my mates that are sitting over there on the table, four of my great mates who have been there through most of my career, growing up and as a kid, continue to inspire me and give me great strength. And I appreciate your friendship for that.
To the Adelaide Football Club, who's part of my family, and has been part of my family for a long time now, for about 20 years. I will forever be indebted to the Adelaide Football Club, they gave me an opportunity as a boy, to pursue my dream and turn me into a man. So, all the past and present at the Adelaide Football Club, I thank you very much.
And to the game of football itself, along with my family and my friends, I am forever indebted, thank you.
Whateley: He's given us another beautiful memory tonight, Andrew McLeod, as a member of the Australian football hall of fame.