Jewish AFL fans who follow teams other than North Melbourne may decide they have a new second-favourite team, after Jewish teen Harry Sheezel made history in the AFL draft this week.
The Mount Scopus College graduate did us all proud on Monday night when his prodigious talent was recognised by the Kangaroos taking him with the third overall pick – making him the first Jewish player drafted since 1999 and the first ever to be drafted in the top 10.
His remarkable achievement – made possible by his hard work, grit and determination – truly is something to celebrate.
Which makes it all the more disappointing that earlier this week, Sheezel’s moment of glory was used by some to hurl cheap, offensive antisemitic jibes and abuse online.
The comments on a Facebook post by The Age, which were later removed, included vile statements such as “Hope he has enough gas in the tank” and “Hopefully a team sponsored by a gas company pick him up. Also his team-mates should not expect him to be shouting end of season drinks.”
We note that players from a wide range of backgrounds – including Indigenous Australians, Muslims and players from Africa – have also been subjected to abuse both online and in person.
It’s a sad indictment of how much more work there is to do in combating racism and antisemitism, and educating the wider public about such ills.
We commend The Age for removing the offending comments so swiftly and the AFL for condemning them as “deplorable and unacceptable”.
As for Sheezel, he has shown a wonderful maturity in how he has reacted to the controversy. The former AJAX player is a fantastic role model for not just the younger members of our own community, but youth across Australia more broadly.
He will no doubt enjoy a long and illustrious career at the Kangaroos and we wish him all the best as he does himself, his family and our community proud.
And when he looks back on how it all began, we hope he remembers only the pride and excitement of making history with the third draft pick, rather than the blind, shameful hatred of the antisemitic social media trolls.
Mazal tov Harry!