After The Game v Sydney, Rd 9 2024 – With Snaps Truly

Any talk of whether Freo could match the ladder leading Swans became oddly unimportant tonight.

Instead, thousands of us stood transfixed and staring at the giant video screens paying sudden and sad tribute to former Docker player Cam McCarthy. who had died suddenly at the age of just 29.

Freo’s players, several of whom were his old friends and teammates, linked arms and stared back up at him, remembering an exceptional talent, and a funny bloke. Gone so suddenly and gone so soon.

The stadium fell silent and then the crowd applauded as one.

Farewell Dardy.

How sorry we felt for his family and friends.

I wondered, what this night would mean to the players. Would they be raw and distracted or able to find focus?

The answer arrived quickly.

Despite winning lots of clearances. Despite earning lots of inside 50’s, Freo could not capitalise on their advantage with the ball.

Instead, they toyed with it, juggled it, and shuffled it. They pulled it out of hats and tried to reveal it from behind a little kid’s ear. They did everything but kick it.

And while this mania of fumbled handballs continued, Sydney responded with clarity and perfect execution.

Logan McDonald kicked their first and Haircut 100 Hayward got the second.

All night, Sydney flooded their backline and the Dockers could find neither the space nor the smarts to pick their way through it.

The mistake that followed was inevitable. The counter attack ruthlessly effective.

The only highlight of the quarter, a goal from an unlikely source, Brandon Walker dancing the light fantastic to keep us in touch. Vaguely.

If only we could settle down, things would get easier. We didn’t settle down. Things did not get easier.

In the second, Chad Warner opened the scoring for Sydney and was soon followed by Amartey as the Swans showed they were pretty much everything we were not.

They couldn’t miss, we couldn’t hit the side of a barn.

Six goals straight to three points for the term. And the game was over.


For those who want more highlights, there were barely any. Josh Treacy went berserk and kicked our second goal in the third quarter and, well let’s just get this over with, shall we?

Jeremy Sharp popped up with a couple in the last, by which time, the Sydney bus was already back at the hotel and the players were ordering room service.

We kicked just four goals for the match and lost by 48 points. Straight out of the eight and with AFL bosses wondering if they can shift the Collingwood fixture a fortnight from tonight, to somewhere else.

Anywhere else.

My lasting memory of a tough day for Freo, came on the train on the way up and then on the way home.

On the way up I spotted a lady sitting quietly with her hands in her lap and her head bowed. She was wearing a Cam McCarthy badge.

And on the way home as the train doors finally freed the fans, an older woman shouted to anyone who cared to listen, “I’m going home to strangle the dog and then have a brandy.”

It was that kind of night.

Just in closing.

While some fans remember Cam McCarthy as a gifted South Freo boy, who kicked a goal with his first touch of the footy for GWS and who, in the season opener for Freo in 2019,banged home five against North Melbourne; few of us remember or have real insight into what his life was like after he left the club, less than eighteen months later.

What happens when the cheering stops? The sad reality for most players is that when the game leaves them behind, we do too.

And if anything of value comes from this tragic loss – let it be the understanding, that the kids we cheer and roar for every week are no more or less vulnerable to society’s challenges than anyone else.

They have privilege, but they also have the burden of expectation and impatient us.

And maybe for a week or two, we can remember that; the next time we scream with frustration when someone shanks a kick on goal or doesn’t put their head over the ball the way we want them to.

No game matters more than the life that surrounds it.

By our multi-talented and amazingly insightful footy scribe, SNAPS TRULY. Snaps has seen and done it all. He may or may not have been a fringe player at Fremantle. Don’t miss Snaps’ report after each Freo Dockers match here on the Shipping News throughout the 2024 season.


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