Jason McCartney (footballer)

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Jason McCartney
Personal information
Date of birth (1974-03-14) 14 March 1974 (age 42)
Original team(s) Nhill
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
Total -
North Melbourne
038 (28)
037 (20)
107 (15)
182 (63)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 2003.

Jason McCartney (born 14 March 1974, in Nhill, Victoria[1]) is a former Australian rules footballer, 2002 Bali bombing survivor[2] and coach of the AIS/AFL Academy. On 19 Oct 2010 the Fremantle Dockers announced they have recruited former AFL player Jason McCartney as a development coach for the next three years. McCartney is now currently at the Western Bulldogs as a List Manager. [3]

AFL career[edit]

McCartney began his career at the Collingwood Football Club amid a huge reputation from his junior football days. He could play at either end of the ground as a key position forward or backman. After McCartney left the Magpies after four seasons from 1991–1994, he switched to Adelaide, with whom he had a good debut season in 1995. He missed out most of the year due to the strength of the team in 1997, therefore missing the Crows' first premiership triumph. So he moved to North Melbourne, where he played in the 1998 losing Grand Final against the Crows. In 1999 he once again had the opportunity to play in a Grand Final, but was suspended during the preliminary final against Brisbane saying that it was the worst day of his life, and went on to miss the Roos' premiership triumph that year. He then played in the team that made a losing preliminary final in 2000, which was the last finals match he played, and could have been considered unlucky, considering circumstances, to have never played in a premiership. In 2002 he had a poor season after being forced to fill the key forward role vacated by champion Wayne Carey who did not compete in the 2002 season following a sex scandal with Anthony Stevens' wife.

Bali bombings[edit]

On 12 October 2002, McCartney was a victim of the Bali bombing near the Sari Club. He was drinking at a nearby pub called Paddy's Bar when the bomb exploded, causing McCartney and his companion, fellow AFL footballer Mick Martyn, to suffer the impact of the blast. Martyn escaped with minor burns, while McCartney suffered severe second degree burns to over 50% of his body.[4]

McCartney initially thought his burns were minor and set about saving those around him instead of worrying about himself. He considered others to be in more pain than he was, and had to be taken on a special chartered flight back to Melbourne along with other victims. When he arrived the injuries turned out to be severe and McCartney almost died during surgery.

What followed was a long rehabilitation process. McCartney stated that his objectives were to get married to his fiance Nerissa as planned, and also to return to AFL football. The come back was seen as an almost impossible task.

Return to AFL football[edit]

He married Nerissa Vanderheyden on 14 December, just 63 days after the bombings.[5] Throughout 2003, McCartney rehabilitated with the intention of regaining his place in the Kangaroos on merit. Following an early season thigh strain, McCartney eventually played seven games with the Kangaroos' then-VFL affiliate Port Melbourne before gaining senior selection.

On 6 June 2003, McCartney returned to the AFL. Playing for the Kangaroos against Richmond, McCartney was heavily bandaged, wore a long-sleeved top and had to wear protective gloves. McCartney wore the numbers "88" and "202" on his guernsey – 88 representing the number of Australians who died in the Bali bombing, and 202 the total number of deaths.[4]

McCartney had the modest statistics of 3 kicks, 1 mark and 1 goal, 1 behind. He booted a goal early in the final quarter, but in a real fairytale, with the Kangaroos trailing by less than a goal late in the game, McCartney dished off the ball to Leigh Harding, who scored the goal which put the Kangaroos three points in front with seconds remaining.

In a real twist to the night, after the game McCartney announced his retirement from AFL football. The toll taken from the severe burns, coupled with his poor career form preceding the bombings, meant that it is doubtful he would have survived with the rigours of the sport. But it was a lovely note to go out on, with the memorable closing moments of the game and the sheer courage of McCartney's return making it one of the most inspirational sports-related stories.[2]

The image of McCartney being chaired off the ground after the game is captured in Jamie Cooper's painting the Game That Made Australia, commissioned by the AFL in 2008 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the sport.[6]


As of 2003, the Jason McCartney Medal has been awarded to the player judged most courageous on field in games between Collingwood and North Melbourne.[7]

Following his retirement, McCartney wrote After Bali, which recounted his ordeal.[8] He is also a prominent motivational speaker on the public speaking circuit around Australia.[9]


External links[edit]