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"Every day I wish I could take it all back": Finlayson comments on slur

Jarred Cross -

Port forward Jeremy Finlayson has opened up on his education training, confronting conversations, regrets and desire to be change almost one month on from directing a homophobic slur towards an opposition player.

On April 10, the AFL found Finlayson guilty of conduct "which demeans and denigrates persons regardless of their sexuality", ruling him out for three matches with requirements to undertake Pride in Sport training. 

After public and private apologies, Finlayson was involved in more controversy after venting his frustration at the sanctions on his wife’s podcast. 

It prompted another apology, and clarification he was most upset with himself. 

As reported by The Age on Tuesday, Finlayson said he as been left “devastated” and “ashamed” of what he said during the match with the Bombers. 

“Every day I wish I could take it all back,” he said.

“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.

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

Finlayson reportedly made moves to address the playing group, explain his ban to his young daughter as well as have a conversation with Port AFLW coach Lauren Arnell to explain the comments did not reflect his feelings and character and offer to speak with any player in her side about the comments. 

Its said the players, led by captain Connor Rozee and vice-skipper Zak Butters, have made a group-wide decision to undertake the same training to make sure any hurt caused by Finlayson isn't repeated by the club.

Finlayson told The Age he’d recognised the hurt in the Essendon player immediately after making his comment. 

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

“The minute, seconds after I said it, I knew it had affected him. I knew straight away I could see he wasn’t right with it. It’s hard to talk about even now. It still hurts me today, and it will hurt me for the rest of my life.”

The 28-year-old is also keen on positive initiatives coming out of what he did, saying “I’d like to get to the point of being able to speak to people and try to help them learn from my mistake” and flagging a potential a competition-wide Pride Round, something already celebrated in the AFLW but not the men’s competition, after conversations with Pride Cup boss Hayley Conway. 

Port coach Ken Hinkley said: “He (Finlayson) doesn’t want to be remembered for this.”

“He’s made his mistake, he’s admitted his fault, and he knows he has a lot of work to do to get better,” Hinkley said, The Age reports.

“I’m not talking about for the team, or on behalf of the team, but for himself.”

Finlayson also said he regretted that his wife - who was diagnosed with cancer in recent years - has to take on the consequences of his comment. 

On whether he was concerned with potential backlash from the stands should he return in a Showdown against the Crows on Thursday night, said “it’s not about what I’m going to have to put up with…it’s what I did to hurt so many people".

“They can say what they want to say…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.

“I don’t want people to go through what I went through, and I don’t want other people to go through that feeling of pain that I might have caused.”

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