The decision comes after the Giants refused to come to the trade table last October to hash out a deal with Fremantle, to whom McCarthy had requested a move.
With no deal eventuating, McCarthy – contracted until the end of 2017 – had no choice but to settle in for another year with the Giants. However, it now appears that has proven too much for him.
There is something I have said about McCarthy and other young footballers in this position many times before, and I’m sure I will say it many times again in the future.
If you can’t cope with being away from home, if you can’t deal with the fact the draft could send you anywhere, if you’re not willing to put in the hard yards wherever your new home is, then maybe a career in the AFL is just not for you.
A little over two years ago at the 2013 national draft, Fremantle were widely expected to pick up McCarthy as their annointed successor to Matthew Pavlich with pick 17.
However, Greater Western Sydney surprised the AFL world, picking up the tall Western Australian prospect with pick 14, which they had received from Port Adelaide in a trade that also saw another homesick youngster Jared Polec return to South Australia.
At that time the Giants had Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton as established members of their future forward line and had just used the No.1 pick on Tom Boyd, leading many pundits to question why they would spend a first round pick on yet another key forward – and even more when McCarthy signed a two-year contract extension before playing a senior game.
Flash forward to the start of 2015 – Boyd had gone to the Bulldogs, Patton was recovering from a second ACL injury, and McCarthy was tearing it up in the seniors, making the Giants look like geniuses.
McCarthy kicked 29 goals in his first 12 games in 2015 and at that stage of the season was among the top ten goalkickers in the league and shaping as a contender for the Rising Star Award.
He struggled to reproduce that form in the remainder of the season, kicking just six more goals for the year and none at all in his last three games, but the message was very clear – the kid could play.
Fremantle, still searching for a player who could fill Pavlich’s shoes, approached contracted McCarthy with a huge offer to return home, he requested a trade, and the standoff began.
Now that McCarthy has caved on his commitment to the Giants and taken indefinite leave, I wonder if Fremantle will be reconsidering their contract offer – and if not, perhaps they should.
Homesickness won’t be an issue for him if he plays at Fremantle, but if the decision to quit and go home rather than put in the hard work at a club he chose to sign a contract extension with is how McCarthy deals with things, he may not have the mental toughness to make it as an AFL footballer.
Granted he has shown the talent to thrive at the top level, but it takes a lot more than talent to really succeed. The most successful footballers are unanimously those who combine talent with mental strength and dedication.
How is a player who can’t cope with living away from home going to deal with the pressure and scrutiny of being a senior member of the team? How is someone who makes the decision to quit a difficult situation going to act when the team is two goals down with five minutes to go in a final?
What has surprised me is that I have seen far more people questioning the Giants’ decision to hold McCarthy despite his trade request last year rather than questioning McCarthy’s commitment to being an AFL footballer.
Personally, I commend the Giants on being one of few clubs willing to hold firm on this issue. If a player has signed a contract with them, then they have every right to hold them to it. Given how many young, talented, interstate footballers are on their list, that is something they are right to be clear on.
I wish Cam McCarthy the best of luck in recovering from his homesickness, absolutely. But I do suggest that he seriously considers his future. If he doesn’t have the dedication to stick to his word and meet the demands of being an AFL footballer – not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard – this might not be the career for him.