Jeremy Finlayson says slur will ‘hurt me for the rest of my life’ ahead of likely Port Adelaide return

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Jake Santa Maria
The West Australian
Jeremy Finlayson says he’s ashamed over his comments.
Jeremy Finlayson says he’s ashamed over his comments. Credit: Supplied

Jeremy Finlayson says as soon as he saw the eyes of his opponent he knew he had crossed a line as the Port Adelaide forward expressed deep sorrow for his homophobic slur.

In the third quarter of the Power’s clash against Essendon in round 4, Finlayson uttered words that would make him the first player to be suspended for using a homophobic slur, a moment which the forward says still keeps him up at night.

“Every day I wish I could take it all back,” he told The Age. “It’s hard to talk about even now, and I don’t know who I’ve hurt or how many people. I have family members who are gay and friends who are gay.”

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“I’m an Indigenous boy, I know what it’s like to be hurt.

“I’ve reached out to them all to try to explain I just said something so wrong in the heat of the moment.”

In the three weeks that followed Finlayson said he had had to have plenty of tough conversations knowing he had not only let himself down but also the club and his family.

“I’m next to Travis Boak in the locker room and like I said, I don’t know whether he has gay friends I might have hurt,” he said.

“I was so ashamed and I knew it wasn’t just about me. I’d dragged them all down a bit. I’d dragged the whole club into this. Every article, every comment it was about Power or Port.”

It still hurts me today, and it will hurt me for the rest of my life.

One of the toughest was facing Port Adelaide AFLW coach Lauren Arnell, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, with Finlayson offering to speak to any player hurt by his comments.

“She dragged me into the gym and gave me a cuddle and said she could see my remorse,” Finlayson said.

“I’m not a great speaker, but I’d like to get to the point of being able to speak to people and try to help them learn from my mistake. I was thinking after speaking with Hayley [Conway, the chief executive of Pride Cup] – imagining if we could create a pride round for the entire competition.”

Finlayson has pledged to continue education beyond the mandatory period and hopes to be a positive influence of change in the league.

“Eleven per cent of our population is gay, and I’m so devastated to think how many people I’ve hurt,” he said. “I’ve already learned so much from the education I’ve done already, and I just wish it hadn’t taken what I’ve done for me to understand this.”

Jeremy Finlayson.
Port's Jeremy Finlayson has expressed disappointment at the length of his gay slur suspension. Credit: AAP

Finlayson said he was still at a loss to explain why he used the words what he did but said lethargy could have been a factor and said he has been at pains to apologise to the Essendon player.

“I’ve reached out to him and I will again,” said Finlayson. “But I’m only starting to learn about this and there’s a lot more education I need to do.”

It’s been a tough two and half years for the Finlayson family with Jeremy’s wife Kellie battling with bowel cancer which has spread to her lungs.

The Power forward said the impact of his outburst on his family has been one of the hardest things to deal with.

“Kellie’s fighting for her life,” said Finlayson, “and for this to happen to her too when she’s done nothing ... She’s been more just supportive and we’ve talked about it a lot at home.

“We’ve explained it to our daughter and even though she’s only two she knows that Daddy is in trouble – that Daddy did something bad and that he used a naughty word. We need to keep explaining that to her as she grows up.”

Kellie Gardner and Jeremy Finlayson
Port Adelaide star Jeremy Finlayson, his wife Kellie and their daughter Sophia. Credit: News Corp Australia

While it is not a sure thing Finlayson is a strong chance to return to the Power this weekend ahead of their Showdown clash with their cross-town rivals.

Finlayson said he expects the Crows faithful will not let him forget his transgression.

“I’ve been copping it for three weeks since I’ve done it,” he said.

“They can say what they want to say – I know what I need to do. In footy, I want to win for this club, I want to pay them back. If I can control my role in the team ... I’ve done the wrong thing and I’ve got to control what comes my way.

“And after that, it’s not going to be about what I did, but what I do to correct it. If I can drag people along in that, I’ll drag people along.”

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