Not since those dark days have the AFL had to deal with such a level of consistent and seemingly systematic complaints from players about racially motivated abuse. Back then, players were subject to abuse from both opposition players and spectators. And back then it took the extraordinary courage of St Kilda player Nicky Winmar and later Essendon great Michael Long to bring the issue to a head.
The current game that that we now identify as the modern era is a vastly different sport than two decades ago. Racial vilification policies have been introduced and processes put in place that provides players subject to racial abuse with an outlet to make complaints.
But this year Hawthorn's Buddy Franklin and North Melbourne's Majak Daw are just two of many AFL and local league players that have cited racial abuse on the field of play. Predominantly centred around sections of the crowd, the AFL must be concerned that this year, more than any other year in recent memory, racially motivated abuse of players is still being reported.
It seems inconceivable that a professional sportsperson such as Sherman would chose to use the race of an opposition player as a vehicle to 'get into the head' of that player. Not only because the choice of play AFL football is a full time one and his livelihood depends on his ongoing player status, but that Sherman shares his football club with a number of indigenous teammates and must surely be acutely aware of the impact of such behaviour.
And it's seems inconceivable that a spectator feels compelled to abuse a player on the ground in the knowledge that this behaviour is not only unacceptable, but will be largely frowned upon by other spectators in their vicinity and be reported.
And the question that must be asked here is, does sport imitate life or does life imitate sport?