John McCarthy’s passing at the age of 22 is a tragedy which has rocked the football world during its most important month.
In a time when six teams are battling it out for the biggest prize, they are also mourning the loss of a true battler who died in Las Vegas on September 10th.
While investigations are still ongoing into the reasons behind his death, it is just as appropriate to look back on what has been a life cut short.
John McCarthy was born on the 19th November, 1989 and played his junior football at Sorrento Football Club on the Mornington Peninsula.
Sorrento is known for its rich lifestyle and casual atmosphere, but the football club has had its fair share of talent over the years.
They have won three of the past four premierships in the Nepean Division and have had a number of past players who have gone on to play VFL/AFL with current Hawk Mitch Hallahan one example.
John McCarthy was a talented junior footballer who naturally progressed through to the Under 18s at the Dandenong Stingrays in 2006. Unfortunately for John, injury struck and he played only nine games in two seasons, meaning he would have limited chances for AFL clubs to scout him.
Draft day rolled around and John was taken with pick 31 in the 2007 National Draft, Collingwood’s first selection.
John made his debut in Round 19 of the 2008 season, going on to play the final six games of the season, which included two finals.
He co-debuted with forward Chris Dawes which is illustrated in one of the more famous photos of John as they walked off the MCG, surprisingly prevailing as 14-point winners over the Saints.
His 14 disposals on debut would be a career best until 2011 when he played Adelaide in the famous ‘comeback game’.
In that particular match, the Crows led by five goals at half time and as much as 33 points during the third quarter with the Pies having kicked only two goals. They stormed home kicking 18 goals in the second half to win by 43 points.
John McCarthy kicked the opening goal of the match as a late inclusion and racked up 20 disposals, his best game at the Pies. Despite being in his fourth year, it was just game 11 for him. He would go on to play a total of 18 at the Pies to the end of the 2011 season.
Despite the calls of Pie supporters to play him in the middle as an inside midfielder, the coaching staff continued to play him as a forward pocket. When he didn’t perform, they dropped him back to the VFL.
John never complained or questioned his role; he just calmly went out and did his job to the best of his ability.
At the end of the 2011 season, he asked to be traded with the blessing of all Collingwood fans, sick of him being used in a position that doesn’t highlight his strengths, knowing he could become something big.
It was no surprise to Collingwood fans that when he went to Port Adelaide, where he averaged over 18 disposals in 21 games at the Power. He even collected 30 disposals against the Pies and Fremantle to show what kind of player he could become.
It is absolutely gut wrenching to think John’s life has been cut short after so much of his hard work and dedication was finally bringing him reward for his effort.
Despite only playing 39 games in five seasons at two clubs, he was seen as a genuinely lovable bloke, always keen for a laugh and worked as hard as anyone on the track.
Both the Port Adelaide and Collingwood Football Clubs are devastated at the news of John’s death, as is the AFL community.
One can only hope the Magpies and Power organise a charity match or dedication match in McCarthy’s honour – and then never stop fighting like ‘J-Mac’ would have done.
Rest in peace, John McCarthy.