Michael Long (footballer)

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Michael Long
Personal information
Full name Michael Long
Date of birth (1969-10-01) 1 October 1969 (age 53)
Place of birth Tiwi Islands
Original team(s) St Mary's/West Torrens
Draft No. 23., 1988 national draft
Height 178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Weight 82 kg (181 lb)
Position(s) Midfielder
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1988 West Torrens 22 (11)
1989–2001 Essendon 190 (143)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
1988 Northern Territory 3 (9)
1993 QLD/NT 1 (0)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 2001.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

Michael Long OAM (born 1 October 1969) is a former Australian rules footballer of Aboriginal descent who became a spokesperson for Indigenous rights and against racism in sport in Australia.[1]

Long was an accomplished player, having played in dual Australian Football League premierships with the Essendon Football Club including a Norm Smith Medal for his 1993 performance.

As an activist, he is credited with being instrumental in the introduction of a racial vilification code in the AFL in 1995[2] and the inspiration behind "The Long Walk" commemorating the Stolen Generation, now a strong AFL tradition.

Early life[edit]

Long was born to mother Agnes and Jack Long. Both been removed from her parents at a young age and taken to the Melville Island, one of the Tiwi Islands. Agnes was taken from Daly River near Darwin and Jack was taken from Ti Tree near Alice Springs.[3] Michael Long was raised on the Tiwi Islands before moving to Darwin to play with St Mary's where he played in multiple premierships. In 1988 he represented the Northern Territory at the 1988 Adelaide Bicentennial Carnival in March 1988 and his outstanding performances in the dominant NT saw enormous interest in his recruitment from clubs throughout the country including VFL club Essendon which nominated him in the National Draft.

Early career[edit]

Despite being drafted to the VFL, West Torrens argued that Long was "contracted with the club and could not play anywhere else."

Noel Judkins said, "I was guaranteed this wasn't the case, so I took the contract to Darwin and met with Michael's father Jack and he was irate. He grabbed it and wrote the word 'bullshit' right across the front of it. When it became clear he wanted to play at Essendon, West Torrens agreed it wasn't a binding contract."[citation needed]

However, despite this, Long did play for West Torrens during the 1988 SANFL season, winning the club's best-and-fairest award, the third-last player to do so, as the Eagles merged with the Woodville Football Club following the 1990 season to become the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles.

Australian Football League career[edit]

Long played perhaps the best game of his career in the 1993 AFL Grand Final. Playing on Mark Athorn, Long ran amok, helping Essendon gain a healthy quarter-time lead and to maintain it. By the end of the game, he had amassed 20 kicks and 13 handballs, totalling 33 possessions.[citation needed]

Long's performance was rewarded with the Norm Smith Medal, which was presented to him by fellow Tiwi Islander Maurice Rioli.[4]

In the pre-season of 1994 in a practice match against the West Coast Eagles, Long injured his knee, which required 12 months of solid rehabilitation, and he was not seen for the entire 1994 AFL home-and-away season.[citation needed]

In 1995, Long made a triumphant return to AFL football and played almost a full season. In the inaugural Anzac Day match between Essendon and Collingwood at the MCG, an incident of racial abuse targeting Long occurred, which was to have a lasting impact on the game.[5]

For the next two seasons, Long needed knee surgery and only took the field seven times. He missed the first half of 1998 recovering from the surgery but finished the year strongly, playing in nine games.[citation needed]

According to the Round 3 AFL Record of 1999, between the beginning of the 1994 and end of the 1998 seasons, Long played only 38 of a possible 119 games.

Long is renowned for his sharp wit. In an incident recalled by Long's coach, Kevin Sheedy, there was a fundraiser to reconstruct Windy Hill that was underway, and Sheedy was conducting a serious training session in front of a whiteboard and 200 people, mostly money donors. He paused to ask if anyone had a question. To the surprise of all that knew him, Long, who apparently hadn't spoken up during a training session in five years, raised his hand, causing people to fall silent to hear Long speak. Long asked, "What was wrong with the blackboard?"[6]

Long had the honour of kicking the first-ever goal at the new Docklands Stadium when it opened in 2000. He was also a member of Essendon's record-breaking premiership team in 2000 which saw only one loss for the entire season. Long faced heavy scrutiny for his bump on Troy Simmonds, which rendered Simmonds unconscious and raised the possibility of him losing mobility, which thankfully never eventuated. However, this incident inspired the AFL to introduce new rules protecting players with their heads over the ball. Long was suspended for this incident.[citation needed]

2001 was Long's final season, and although Essendon made the Grand Final that year, Long aggravated a hamstring during Grand Final training and was forced to name himself unavailable on the eve of the game, which Essendon lost to Brisbane.[citation needed]

Racial abuse[edit]

In the inaugural Anzac Day match of the 1995 season, between Essendon and Collingwood at the MCG, Long made an official complaint after he had been racially taunted by Collingwood's ruckman, Damian Monkhorst. The AFL arranged a mediation session between Long and Monkhorst and held a media conference. Although Long was clearly unsatisfied by the short-term outcome of their meeting, and both players received death threats, the long-term result was that it set a racial vilification code that held players to account for racist acts on the field. An AFL investigation after the incident showed that at least 10 players from six clubs regularly racially abused players.[5] Consequently, since this incident, there have only been a handful of widely publicised accusations of racial taunts by a player on the AFL field in the following three decades, although racial abuse from fans has proved to be a recurring issue over the years.[7][8][5]

Twenty years after the incident, at the MCG to launch the 11th "Long Walk" in 2015, the two men met and shook hands in a genuinely mutually respectful manner. Long said that Monkhorst had since shown great leadership.[5]

In 1997, Peter "Spida" Everitt racially abused Long, which drew a free kick to Everitt due to Long's enraged physical response.[9][10] Although nothing of consequence happened from the Long incident, Everett racially vilified Melbourne's Scott Chisolm two years later and undertook a racial awareness training program as well as donated $20,000 to a charity of Chisolm's choice. In addition, Everitt lost $50,000–$60,000 in match bonuses (depending on sources) from the incident.[11][12][13][14] The incident came a week after Sam Newman infamously donned blackface to mock Nicky Winmar for declining to come on The Footy Show.[15][10]

Playing statistics[edit]

Played in that season's 
premiership team
Season Team No. Games Totals Averages (per game)
1989 Essendon 4 24 19 10 233 203 436 68 63 0.8 0.4 9.7 8.5 18.2 2.8 2.6 8
1990 Essendon 4 25 13 9 221 184 405 58 51 0.5 0.4 8.8 7.4 16.2 2.3 2.0 5
1991 Essendon 13 18 13 6 170 132 302 26 34 0.7 0.3 9.4 7.3 16.8 1.4 1.9 6
1992 Essendon 13 17 13 8 182 157 339 56 34 0.8 0.5 10.7 9.2 19.9 3.3 2.0 7
1993# Essendon 13 18 12 4 228 188 416 72 40 0.7 0.2 12.7 10.4 23.1 4.0 2.2 1
1994 Essendon 13 0
1995 Essendon 13 22 27 18 294 221 515 80 40 1.2 0.8 13.4 10.0 23.4 3.6 1.8 16
1996 Essendon 13 2 2 0 9 6 15 1 2 1.0 0.0 4.5 3.0 7.5 0.5 1.0 0
1997 Essendon 13 5 4 6 37 39 76 19 3 0.8 1.2 7.4 7.8 15.2 3.8 0.6 2
1998 Essendon 13 9 9 4 54 60 114 30 9 1.0 0.4 6.0 6.7 12.7 3.3 1.0 2
1999 Essendon 13 20 12 12 223 122 345 62 27 0.6 0.6 11.2 6.1 17.3 3.1 1.4 9
2000# Essendon 13 23 18 18 230 135 365 72 59 0.8 0.8 10.0 5.9 15.9 3.1 2.6 2
2001 Essendon 13 7 1 4 42 30 72 16 16 0.1 0.6 6.0 4.3 10.3 2.3 2.3 0
Career 190 143 99 1923 1477 3400 560 378 0.8 0.5 10.1 7.8 17.9 2.9 2.0 58

Honours and achievements[edit]




Following his retirement, Long became a spokesman for Indigenous Australians. He was a critic of then-Prime Minister John Howard's policies towards Indigenous Australians—most notably Howard's refusal to make an apology to the Stolen Generation. In a letter published in Melbourne's The Age, Long likened Howard to "those cold-hearted pricks" who stole his parents.[17]

His political activities culminated in a protest march from Melbourne to Canberra, leaving on 21 November 2004. The aim of the walk was to obtain a meeting with the Prime Minister. After ten days of intense media scrutiny of the walk, the Prime Minister eventually granted Long a meeting, at which point Long called an end to the walk, having completed about 325 km of the planned 650 km walk.[17] He later said: "I wanted to make a change. It was about challenging the government about some of the issues Aboriginal people were facing and still face – education, employment, health, housing, the Stolen Generations."[18] The walk became known as The Long Walk, and the tradition of a commemorative community walk in Melbourne has continued, with thousands turning out for the event.[19] The walk takes places in late May or early June before the Dreamtime game, starting at Federation Square and ending at the MCG.[18] Long is patron of The Long Walk, an organisation inspired by his walk and which works for the health and well-being of Indigenous Australians.[19]

In 2006, he was charged with assaulting a man at a football club function in Darwin.[20] He pleaded guilty when the case came to trial in 2009, saying that he had struck a man who had attacked his sister. No conviction was recorded, with the magistrate saying that he was unlikely to re-offend.[21]

In July 2011, Long signed up as ambassador for weight-loss agency Jenny Craig, partly to highlight indigenous health. Weighing 112 kg, 30 kg more than his playing weight, his aim was to drop at least 10 kg in around 10 weeks.[22]

In 2015, he became board member of the newly founded Michael Long Foundation (MLF), and in 2016 the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre (MLLLC) opened in Darwin. MLF funds education and football programs for indigenous people, and the MLLLC, funded by the federal government and managed by the Australian Football League Northern Territory (AFLNT), aims to nurture talent and improve lives and communities.[23][24]

In 2018, he was treated for a life-threatening infectious disease, melioidosis, in a hospital in Darwin; however, this did not stop him from announcing plans for a second Long Walk, as he was honoured for the Sir Doug Nicholls round at Dreamtime at the 'G in May 2019.[25]

Long was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Queen's Birthday Honours, for "service to Australian rules football, and to the Indigenous community".[26]

Champions of Essendon[edit]

In 2002, an Essendon panel ranked him at 23 in their Champions of Essendon list of the 25 greatest players ever to have played for Essendon.


  1. ^ "Racism in AFL much less: Long". The Age. 8 May 2003.
  2. ^ "Michael Long: From bush to big smoke". Torres News. No. 551. Queensland, Australia. 23 May 2003. p. 2 (TORRES NEWS SPORT). Retrieved 23 May 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Michael Long Foundation
  4. ^ NT great to present Norm Smith
  5. ^ a b c d "Michael Long and Damian Monkhorst look back on AFL racism incident 20 years on". ABC News (Australia). 29 April 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2023.
  6. ^ Kevin Sheedy recalls the time a shy Michael Long brought the house down at Essendon training!, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 24 September 2021
  7. ^ "Infamous AFL racism incidents". The Age. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  8. ^ "'I hope I'm not remembered for one remark': Taylor Walker unsure of playing future after racism scandal". ABC News. 26 August 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  9. ^ 1997 discussion around racism. AFL. Wayne Jackson, Leigh Matthews, Talking Footy., retrieved 17 April 2023
  10. ^ a b "McNamara, Lawrence --- "Tackling Racial Hatred: Conciliation, Reconciliation and Football" [2000] AUJlHRights 18; (2000) 6(2) Australian Journal of Human Rights 5". classic.austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  11. ^ McFarlane, Glenn (21 March 2009). "Peter Everitt wants to erase a dirty memory". Sunday Herald Sun. News Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  12. ^ "Infamous AFL racism incidents". The Age. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Everitt accuses Murphy of attempting to incite racism". The Age. 26 July 2002. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  14. ^ "McNamara, Lawrence --- "Tackling Racial Hatred: Conciliation, Reconciliation and Football" [2000] AUJlHRights 18; (2000) 6(2) Australian Journal of Human Rights 5". classic.austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  15. ^ "Australian rules: Racism backfires on St Kilda player". The Independent. 9 April 1999. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  16. ^ Michael Long's player profile at AFL Tables
  17. ^ a b Landers, Kim (3 December 2004). "Long walk secures meeting with Howard Reporter". Lateline. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  18. ^ a b Di Sisto, Peter (23 May 2019). "The Long vision". Essendon Football Club. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  19. ^ a b "About". The Long Walk. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Ex-AFL star Long on assault charges". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  21. ^ "AFL great escapes assault conviction". 17 March 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  22. ^ Langmaid, Aaron (5 July 2011). "Michael Long makes a stand for indigenous health". Herald Sun.
  23. ^ "About". Michael Long Foundation. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  24. ^ "New Michael Long sports academy using football to improve lives and communities". Australian Govt. Dept of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Indigenous Affairs. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  25. ^ Vaughan, Roger (24 May 2019). "AFL great Long reflects on health scare". Victor Harbor Times. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  26. ^ "Queen's Birthday 2021 Honours - the full list". Sydney Morning Herald. Nine Entertainment Co. 13 June 2021. Retrieved 13 June 2021.


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