Matthew Pavlich said it perfectly during Fox Footy’s coverage of Fremantle’s round one win: “Opportunity in life is a funny thing … Opportunity in footy”.
A week ago, Cam McCarthy was at best a slim chance to take on North Melbourne, having been overlooked for both the club’s JLT Community Series hit-outs.
But Hogan’s absence opened the door, and McCarthy grasped his chance with both hands.
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Sporting a new haircut and fresh beard – banishing his infamous moustache to the archives of history – McCarthy flourished in Fremantle’s spacious forward 50, both at ground level and on the lead.
Whether it was the result of a structural change, faster ball movement, support from taller targets or a combination of the above is hard to determine, but McCarthy looked a different player.
He led full-chested at the ball and to dangerous areas, tackled and chased relentlessly, read the movement of his teammates and showed renewed confidence in his set shot.
McCarthy’s first quarter was encouraging. His second reinforced why Fremantle handed over pick three in a deal with GWS to secure him, despite a year-long absence from the game.
Three goals came during that stanza, including a flawless effort from outside 50; a set shot which he never considered handing off. Last year, he might’ve felt guilty even attempting it.
To half time, he had four majors to his name along with 10 touches, three marks – all taken inside 50, one of which was contested – two tackles and a disposal efficiency rating of 80 per cent.
A brilliant crumbing effort in the third quarter was bettered by the finishing ball – a spear across the face of goal, that set up Sean Darcy.
Then came his fifth goal – a 60m bomb that couldn’t have been any straighter. The way McCarthy celebrated was refreshing; he genuinely seemed to be enjoying his job.
Granted, North Melbourne was paper thin on defensive options – but you can only work with the hand you’re dealt.
And McCarthy worked hard, covering more ground (14.6km) than everyone but Ben Brown (15.3km) and Alex Pearce (14.7km).
The 23-year-old also gained 492 metres for his team, to go with 20 disposals five marks and a handful of majors.
Equally interesting was where Ross Lyon chose to use McCarthy. The majority of his possessions were accumulated at centre-half forward, rather than in the pocket or on the flank.
In just a half of football, Cam McCarthy went from a surplus forward to a genuine danger man – the player Fremantle’s coaching staff knew he could become.
The next question surrounds how long he can sustain this purple patch.
A lengthy run of form poses an interesting conundrum for Lyon when Hogan and Brennan Cox are ready to return to action.
In the meantime, how’s that for making the most of your opportunity?