Michael Long (footballer)

Michael Long (born 1 October 1969) is a former Australian rules footballer of Aboriginal descent who became a spokesperson for Indigenous rights and against racism in sport.[1]

Michael Long
Personal information
Full name Michael Long
Date of birth (1969-10-01) 1 October 1969
Place of birth Tiwi Islands
Original team(s) St Mary's/West Torrens
Draft No. 23., 1988 national draft
Height 178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Weight 82 kg (181 lb)
Position(s) Midfielder
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1989–2001 Essendon 190 (143)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
1988 Northern Territory 3 (9)
1993 QLD/NT 1 (0)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 2001.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

Early career

Despite being drafted to the VFL, the West Torrens Football Club of the Adelaide based SANFL argued that Long was "contracted with the club and could not play anywhere else." "I was guaranteed this wasn't the case, so I took the contract to Darwin and met with Michael's father Jack and he was irate. He grabbed it and wrote the word 'bullshit' right across the front of it. When it became clear he wanted to play at Essendon, West Torrens agreed it wasn't a binding contract", Judkins said.

However, despite this Long did play for West Torrens during the 1988 SANFL season, winning the clubs best and fairest award, the third last player to do so as the Eagles merged with the Woodville Football Club following the 1990 season to become the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles.

Australian Football League career

Long played perhaps the best game of his career in the 1993 AFL Grand Final. Playing on Mark Athorn, Long ran amok, helping Essendon gain a healthy quarter-time lead, and to maintain it. By the end of the game, he had amassed 20 kicks and 13 handballs, totaling 33 possessions.

Long's performance was rewarded with the Norm Smith Medal, which was presented to him by fellow Tiwi Islander Maurice Rioli.[2]

In the pre-season of 1994 in a practice match against the West Coast Eagles, Long injured his knee which required 12 months of solid rehabilitation, and he was not seen for the entire 1994 AFL Home and Away season.

In 1995 Long made a triumphant return to AFL football and played almost a full season. In the Anzac Day match between Essendon and Collingwood at the MCG, Long claimed to have been racially taunted by Collingwood's ruckman, Damian Monkhorst.

The AFL arranged a mediation session between Long and Monkhorst and although Long was clearly unsatisfied by the short-term outcome of this meeting, long-term it set a precedent and since this incident, there have only been three widely publicised accusations of racial taunts on the AFL field.

For the next two seasons he needed knee surgery and only took the field seven times. He missed the first half of 1998 recovering from the surgery, but finished the year strongly playing in nine games.

According to the round 3 AFL Record of 1999, between the beginning of the 1994 and end of the 1998 seasons, Long played only 38 of a possible 119 games.

Long had the honour of kicking the first ever goal at the new Docklands Stadium when it opened in 2000. He was also a member of Essendon's record-breaking premiership team in 2000 which saw only one loss for the entire season. Long faced heavy scrutiny for his bump on Troy Simmonds, which rendered Simmonds unconscious and raised the possibility of him losing mobility – which never eventuated. However, this incident inspired the AFL to introduce new rules protecting players with their heads over the ball. Long was suspended for this incident.

2001 was Long's final season and although Essendon made the Grand Final that year, Long aggravated a hamstring during grand final training and was forced to name himself unavailable on the eve of the game, which Essendon lost to the Brisbane Lions.

Playing statistics

Season Team No. Games G B K H D M T G B K H D M T
Totals Averages (per game)
1989 Essendon 424191023320343668630.
1990 Essendon 42513922118440558510.
1991 Essendon 131813617013230226340.
1992 Essendon 131713818215733956340.80.510.
1993 Essendon 131812422818841672400.70.212.710.423.14.02.2
1994 Essendon 130
1995 Essendon 1322271829422151580401.20.813.410.
1996 Essendon 132209615121.
1997 Essendon 135463739761930.
1998 Essendon 1399454601143091.
1999 Essendon 1320121222312234562270.60.611.
2000 Essendon 1323181823013536572590.80.810.05.915.93.12.6
2001 Essendon 1371442307216160.
Career 190 143 99 1923 1477 3400 560 378 0.8 0.5 10.1 7.8 17.9 2.9 2.0


Following his retirement, Long became a spokesman for Indigenous Australians. He was a critic of then Prime Minister John Howard's policies towards Indigenous Australians – most notably Howard's refusal to make an apology to the Stolen Generation. In a letter published in Melbourne's The Age, Long likened Howard to 'those cold-hearted pricks' who stole his parents.[4]

His political activities culminated in a protest march from Melbourne to Canberra, leaving on 21 November 2004. The aim of the walk was to obtain a meeting with the Prime Minister. After ten days of intense media scrutiny of the walk, the Prime Minister eventually granted Long a meeting, at which point Long called an end to the walk, having completed about 325 km of the planned 650 km walk.[4] He later said: "I wanted to make a change. It was about challenging the government about some of the issues Aboriginal people were facing and still face – education, employment, health, housing, the Stolen Generations."[5] The walk became known as the Long Walk, and the tradition of a commemorative community walk in Melbourne has continued, with thousands turning out for the event.[6] The walk takes places in late May or early June before the Dreamtime game, starting at Federation Square and ending at the MCG.[5] Long is patron of the Long Walk, an organisation inspired by his walk and which works for the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.[6]

In 2006 he was charged with assaulting a man at a football club function in Darwin.[7] He pleaded guilty when the case came to trial in 2009, saying that he had struck a man who had attacked his sister. No conviction was recorded, with the magistrate saying that he was unlikely to reoffend.[8]

In July 2011, Long signed up as ambassador for weight loss agency Jenny Craig, partly to highlight indigenous health. Weighing 112 kg, 30 kg more than his playing weight, his aim was to drop at least 10 kg in around 10 weeks.[9]

In 2015 he became board member of the newly-founded Michael Long Foundation (MLF), and in 2016 the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre (MLLLC) opened in Darwin. MLF funds education and football programs for indigenous people, and MLLLC, funded by the federal government and managed by the Australian Football League Northern Territory (AFLNT), aims to nurture talent and improve lives and communities.[10][11]

In 2018 he was treated for the life-threatening infectious disease, melioidosis, in a hospital in Darwin. However this did not stop him from announcing plans for a second Long Walk, as he was honoured for the Sir Doug Nicholls round at Dreamtime at the 'G in May 2019.[12]

Champions of Essendon

In 2002 an Essendon panel ranked him at 23 in their Champions of Essendon list of the 25 greatest players ever to have played for Essendon.


  1. "Racism in AFL much less: Long". The Age. 8 May 2003.
  2. NT great to present Norm Smith
  3. Michael Long's player profile at AFL Tables
  4. Landers, Kim (3 December 2004). "Long walk secures meeting with Howard Reporter:". Lateline. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  5. Di Sisto, Peter (23 May 2019). "The Long vision". Essendon Football Club. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  6. "About". The Long Walk. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  7. "Ex-AFL star Long on assault charges". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  8. "AFL great escapes assault conviction". 17 March 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  9. Langmaid, Aaron (5 July 2011). "Michael Long makes a stand for indigenous health". Herald Sun.
  10. "About". Michael Long Foundation. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  11. "New Michael Long sports academy using football to improve lives and communities". Australian Govt. Dept of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Indigenous Affairs. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  12. Vaughan, Roger (24 May 2019). "AFL great Long reflects on health scare". Victor Harbor Times. Retrieved 30 May 2019.


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