Melbourne players remember Troy Broadbridge who died in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.PORT Adelaide’s task in moving on from the tragedy of lost life to the relatively frivolous business of playing football is not an enviable one, but the Power has received invaluable counsel from those who know too well how death impacts both a family and a football club.
Officials sought out Wayne Broadbridge and his wife, Pam, to help negotiate the difficult terrain ahead as a new season begins without John McCarthy among their number. The Broadbridges, whose son and Melbourne defender Troy died in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, urged them simply to keep McCarthy’s family close, as the Demons have done them.
”I’ve spoken to the club about the wonderful work the Melbourne footy club did to support Pam and I, and the ongoing support they’ve provided us over the years,” Wayne Broadbridge said.
”We regard Melbourne as the club that we follow, there’s something very deep and dear to us that sits in and around Melbourne. It was an honour to be asked our opinion by Port after John’s life was so sadly taken.”
Port Adelaide football manager Peter Rohde said the club has also spoken to Demons officials from the time of Broadbridge’s death, and members of SANFL club Sturt, who lost a player and trainer in the Bali bombings.
A tribute to McCarthy is planned at the club’s first home game, against GWS in round two, with the Power expecting his family, partner Dani Smarrelli and friends from Sorrento to attend. The make-up of such a tribute is also delicate on what is bound to be an emotional night, as was evidenced in Melbourne’s first game after Broadbridge’s passing.
”We were made to feel very special, particularly on the day, but that’s only part of it,” Wayne Broadbridge said of round one in 2005, when the family was hosted by the club and AFL executive. Among other tributes, Troy’s siblings and wife Trisha stood with players on the MCG and released balloons in his honour.
The Demons defeated Essendon by 46 points that night, but Rohde acknowledged that harnessing emotion would present another challenge to Port’s players in round two, and in the season-opener the week before, coincidentally against Melbourne at the MCG, where McCarthy played his last game in round 23 last year.
”Certainly the Melbourne feedback is that it was very emotional, and maybe it was too emotional for them – they had a good start to that year, but a very poor finish,” Rohde said. ”The whole emotional side of it was a bit overwhelming.”
Wayne Broadbridge concurs. ”There was certainly a focus there with having it as a celebration of Troy’s life, but there’s no guarantee of success as a consequence. But it was rewarding, it was inspiring, the way that the lads performed.”
McCarthy left an indelible mark at Port Adelaide despite spending only one season at Alberton after crossing from Collingwood, and Rohde said the support for players and staff who were devastated by his death on an end-of-season trip to Las Vegas was ongoing. A further tribute benefiting a charity in his name is planned for the round-14 clash with the Magpies.
Rohde said the pre-season had been full of ”little milestones along the way that keep him in the back or the front of our minds”. He said new coach Ken Hinkley had handled well arriving at a club in mourning, and was sympathetic to the reality that the tragedy will be at the club’s shoulder throughout the season.
Rohde said McCarthy’s family didn’t want a grand nod to their loved one, citing the words of his mother, Cath, at his funeral that teammates play not so much for him but with him.
”We’d hope we can recognise John for how popular he was, what sort of person he was, but we and John’s family don’t want to make a huge issue of it either,” Rohde said. ”We want to treat it with respect and move on.”
Wayne Broadbridge finds it hard to believe eight years have passed since Troy’s death. ”Our family’s hearts go out to John’s family, and his partner and those around him, as well as to the players. You know full well the friendships you build in a game like football, they run so deep.”
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