Harry Sheezel might be a prodigious footy talent who is set to be one of the first players picked up in tonight’s AFL Draft – but some fans have reacted to the young Jewish boy’s success with a string of disgusting comments.
If the 18-year-old is picked up by North Melbourne at three or four, as is expected, he will become the first Jewish player to be drafted since Ezra Poyas in 1999.
It’s a feel-good story about a young man representing a community not often associated with Australian Rules football.
Unfortunately, not everyone felt that way, with a myriad of keyboard warriors flooding The Age’s Facebook post of their story with a string of anti-Semitic comments.
18-year-old Harry Sheezel (left) is set to be the first Jewish player picked up at the AFL Draft in 25 years tonight
The post has since been removed, but not before prominent Jewish author Alex Ryvchin could draw attention to some of the racist remarks on Twitter.
‘A jew actually doing physical exercise? Fake news’, one wrote, while another said: ‘Zionist-owned media selling a story like the Holocaust’ – in one of the more disgusting of the remarks.
Other repulsive comments asked whether the rising star had enough ‘gas in the tank’ in reference to the horrors experienced by the six million Jewish people murdered by Adolf Hitler in World War II.
A number of vile comments were made on a Facebook post about Harry Sheezel
Unfortunately, and unbelievably in 2022, this is not a rare event.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission and Australia’s leading anti-hate campaigner said the ‘climate for Australian Jews’ is very dangerous at the moment.
‘Australians have to accept the fact that genie of anti-Semitism is out of the bottle and that the lid has been taken off the sewer, as people who might be our neighbours are pouring their anti-Semitic venom and poison on a young man who is simply seeking to play the game he loves,’ he said in statement given to the Daily Mail.
‘This is the reality of being a Jewish person in Victoria, and even for someone who fights anti-Semitism 24/7, the last few years have shocked me to the core. They paint a very troubling picture and anti-Jewish bigotry takes a firm hold in our daily life and the climate for Australian Jews becomes very dangerous.
‘The number of revolting posts that have targeted Harry Sheezel on Facebook is alarming, and points to a large-scale normalisation and acceptance of bigoted, hateful speech that is a hallmark of social media today,’ said Dr Abramovich.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, the Chair of Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission, said he is ‘revolted’ by the alarming number of anti-Semitic comments directed at Harry Sheezel online
Dr Abramovich said the incredibly racist comments reflect the age-old stereotypes about Jewish people that were lead by Nazi leadership, in the worst humanitarian disaster of all-time.
‘Some of the ugly, hurtful expressions that I have seen shared about Mr Sheezel are not only stoking the flames of intolerance, but are recycling age-old blood libels and stereotypes of Jews that would make neo-Nazis very proud,’ he said, in the scathing statement.
‘One wonders whether these individuals spewing such virtual abuse and harassment take their online activity to the real world when they encounter Jewish people on the street or at work, and what they are teaching their children about acceptance and respect.
‘I hope that every AFL team takes the time to see if these trolls are club members, and if they are, expels each one,’ said Dr Abramovich.
Sheezel (right) and teammate Will Ashcroft (centre left, the highly-touted son of Lions great Marcus Ashcroft) appeared on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 alongside Gerard Whateley (left) and Mark Robinson (right) in May and will both likely be taken very high in tonight’s AFL Draft
Sheezel attended the prestigious Mount Scopus Memorial College (where former Aussie Test cricketer Michael Klinger is one of the esteemed alumni), one of the world’s top Jewish day schools; where he learnt to speak Hebrew.
Before playing in the top-flight junior NAB League, he played his junior footy with Jewish club AJAX, the club his father Dean played more than 150 senior games at.
99,956 Australians, 46,645 of which lived in Victoria, identified as Jewish according to the 2021 Census – so the fact Sheezel is already making waves in footy has made him somewhat of a celebrity already in the community.
While he isn’t specifically religious, his family practice the traditional Jewish customs and traditions every year, and it’s made him determined to be a role model in his community.
Sheezel played for the Sandringham Dragons in the top-flight junior NAB League, winning this year’s premiership
You get these kids that you’ve just never seen come up to you and are like, ‘Oh, ‘you’re Harry Sheezel,’ I go to Scopus as well. You see these kids, they look at me how I used to look at Lance Franklin. And it’s just like, wow, like, I can be such a positive role model and an influence to these kids,’ he told Code Sports recently.
‘It is sometimes a bit of pressure, like if you don’t perform, am I letting them down? But I think I have the belief that I think I can make it more positive than negative.
‘I guess now it’s kind of real that it is going to happen. So now I can kind of relax a bit and just try to give back to the community and show them that it is possible.
‘I think that’s the way I’m gonna look, I just want it to be more common, I think it definitely can be,’ said Sheezel of the chance more Jewish players would make a name for themselves in the AFL.
Harry Sheezel (right), pictured with a friend earlier this year, will be nervously awaiting tonight to see when his name is called
Only a handful of Jewish players have played in the AFL, with 1966 Saints premiership player Ian Synman easily the pick of the bunch after a stellar 154-game career.
Current North Melbourne All Australian ruckman does have a Jewish father, but doesn’t qualify as Jewish lineage traditionally comes from the mother’s side of the family.
Poyas was the most recent, playing in Richmond 2001 preliminary final, but just eight Jewish players in total are believed to have played at the highest level.
Harry Sheezel and his Sandringham Dragons beat the Dandenong Stingrays to take out the 2022 NAB League Premiership in September, with the young forward starring with four goals
There will absolutely be one more to join those ranks now, though, and Sheezel may well prove himself to be the pick of the lot.
The 186cm medium forward was brilliant alongside the much-hyped Will Ashcroft at Sandringham, kicking 36 goals from 14 matches as the side took out the NAB League premiership earlier this year.
His crucial four goals in that grand final against Dandenong in September cemented his spot as a top-10 draft pick, and it’s highly likely the Kangaroos will snap him up at pick three and add him to an already talented young forward line.