“He comes from a really strong family. Our family, the Naden family, is a very, very strong Wiradjuri family, very strong. We’ve been brought up to know that we don’t accept this under any circumstances and we’ve been brought up to stand up against these things.
“Our family is massive and he’s a lot younger than me, Brent. But we’re all connected and we were all brought up in the same way, with those same values.
“He’s a terrific young footballer, he’s building a really strong career for himself and in standing up he’s also shown what matters to him and how he was raised.”
The NRL integrity unit was on Sunday still investigating the events of Friday night that led Naden to make multiple complaints during the first half of the Panthers’ 18-12 defeat of New Zealand Warriors. A group of eight men under scrutiny over the abuse were removed from the venue by police for being drunk and disorderly, and some appeared to ridicule Indigenous dancing in video footage of them leaving the ground.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has indicated the sport could impose life bans on any spectator found to have racially abused Naden, and fellow crowd members have come forward to assist with the probe.
The assignment for NRL investigators is ascertaining who said what, and while sources said progress had been made, they were still putting the pieces together.
Whatever the outcome, though, Grant, whose documentary The Australian Dream explored the racism storm that marred the final years of AFL footballer Adam Goodes’ career, said the fallout from the incident at Gosford had been reassuring.
“In times gone by and we remember what Adam went through with the AFL … players did not get the support that they needed,” he said.
“There have been times in the past in the NRL where Indigenous players have had to put up with that sort of nonsense or have not been supported. But that’s changed and its’ changed because Indigenous players have had the courage to bring their voices to these things.”
“This is never going to go away. Racism is its own virus and it changes shape and it doesn’t go away,” Grant said. “But what you can do is to ensure that as a society we support young men and young women when they stand up and say it’s not acceptable.
“There are two things with this: It reminds us that there are still idiots out there who want to do this sort of thing and we should always be vigilant. But we shouldn’t let that obscure the hard work that has gone into dealing with these things.
“I think it’s been dealt with really quickly and Brent has shown real courage in being able to stand up. And [it’s great] to know that he can stand up against this and say ‘this is unacceptable’, with the support of both his club and the NRL.”
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Chris Barrett is Chief Sports Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald.