One of the harshest lessons in life is to be confronted with your own mortality. Tragically, this lesson sometimes comes with the loss of a friend.
Players of both Collingwood and Port Adelaide recently experienced this loss with the tragic accidental death of their young friend, John McCarthy. Often the analogy is made between footballers and soldiers, and while the comparison is not accurate, the sense of friendship experienced by the two groups is similar.
In the modern age of football, loyalty is often discussed and dismissed as a commodity that existed only in a bygone era, but no one can deny that the sense of camaraderie and extended family that a football club provides still remains. The loss of their friend, and their teammate, has both devastated and inspired players from both clubs.
In the height of grief and emotion, Collingwood exerted a monumental effort in the finals series to win a match many thought they were destined to lose. Port Adelaide, when playing the Western Bulldogs in an exhibition match in London, also managed to dig deep for the extra effort to overcome a large half-time deficit. After kicking the winning goal in the closing moments of the match, Brad Ebert touched the black armband he was wearing in remembrance of his friend and looked skyward.
Grief impacts everyone differently, and both the Power and Magpies are being extremely proactive, offering ongoing counselling to the young men affected by the loss of John McCarthy. Losing a friend can result in self-destructive behaviour in an effort to escape the depth of the pain being felt, or it can inspire an individual to change their life; to appreciate the gifts that they have, the opportunities present before them and to savour each moment.
On June 20th of 2013, Collingwood will face Port Adelaide in a game at AAMI Stadium. These two clubs are bound together with the time they shared with John McCarthy, and the grief they will no doubt still feel at his passing. The scheduling of this match is important – it allows these young men to meet on the field and to honour their mate’s memory by playing the game that he loved, with the two teams that he represented taking part.
It would be a fitting tribute if a memorial medal named in John’s memory is awarded at the conclusion of this match, and even more so if the two teams met every year following in the state that John called home, beginning a new tradition in remembrance and honour of a fallen friend.