Sydney Swans premiership forward and former Australian of the Year Adam Goodes was on a “wishlist” of potential candidates to run on a national Nick Xenophon Team ticket, InDaily can reveal.
But the SA senator has distanced himself from any move to recruit the dual Brownlow medallist, who has been at the centre of a national race debate in recent weeks amid sustained heckling from some AFL fans.
“(There were) a number of people who were sounding people out (but) not with my authority,” Xenophon told InDaily.
“I found out about it afterwards.”
He said “supporters of mine” had spoken to various high-profile people about running on a national ticket, “but it wasn’t anything I was aware of at the time”.
“A number of people were approached, but it wasn’t done with my authority,” he said.
“I heard about it in the last few months.”
InDaily approached Rohan Wenn, Xenophon’s one-time adviser who left his camp earlier this year.
Wenn said Goodes was never spoken to, but confirmed “he was on a wishlist, as were many other high-profile, competent people”.
Goodes’ management said the AFL star was “not aware of it”.
In 2013, he told the NITV program Living Black he would ”never say never” to a future political career.
“I would never rule myself out that that’s something I’d want to get into,” he said at the time.
“In football, I’ve always wanted to be part of the process that makes change, by sitting on the executive board of the players’ association, being part of discussions that help influence the environment I work in and to influence the environment for future players. Being part of those processes has always appealed to me.”
He described his primary policy passions as environment and education, although he had “never really aligned myself to one party”.
“I’m more of the idea that whoever’s running, who I agree with most, is who I vote for,” he said.
However in June this year, amid the public fallout following his Indigenous Round “war dance” gesture, he told the same network that he was not interested in entering politics “right now”, despite party approaches.
“I’m definitely not interested in party politics, definitely not interested in stepping into that arena,” he said.
Goodes is widely expected to hang up the boots at the end of this season, with the Swans currently fourth on the AFL ladder.
Xenophon says he is “well advanced in plans” for Senate candidates in NSW, Victoria and Queensland and is also hopeful of fielding aspirants in WA and Tasmania, as well as in a handful of “strategic” lower house seats around the country.
His main focus, though, will be on SA, with candidates in “between eight and 11” House of Representatives seats and retail industry consultant Stirling Griff as the Nick Xenophon Team’s lead Senate candidate.
As “campaign co-ordinator”, Griff is also overseeing much of the recruitment process, but Xenophon insists: “Ultimately, it’s my decision because the group’s in my name”.
“My philosophy is that line from (US activist, consumer advocate and one-time presidential candidate) Ralph Nader, who said the function of genuine leadership is to create more leaders, not more followers,” Xenophon said.
InDaily revealed yesterday that Xenophon met with former Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Pallaras this week. Both played down the prospect of Pallaras joining the Xenophon ticket ahead of the next election, but neither ruled out such a move in the future.
Xenophon said Goodes is “a great Australian” but “I don’t have anything to do with him”.
He expects to unveil his team of candidates in October.
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