Villains – Wayne Carey

With Wayne Carey standing down from his role at Channel Seven in the wake of a “bag with white powder” falling onto a gaming table at Crown’s Burswood Casino on Thursday, the timing of this article is probably good.

Truth is, I had most of it done last week but with another set of headlines involving Carey, things had to be slightly modified.

Those I’ve identified to be featured in this series all have a redeeming quality that saw them go from hated to loved once they moved from the playing field to the media arena.

For whatever reason, the public embraced their larrikin-like ways, their knock-about personas, or their casual, almost friendly manner of engaging in the new medium.

All except one.

The hatred for Wayne Carey continues until this day, perhaps stronger now than when he was forced to walk away from North Melbourne and the teammates he’d helped win two flags in the 90s. In reality, his team should have had more success.

Carey was one of the biggest offenders in North squandering the first-half dominance of the Kangaroos in the first half of the 1998 Grand Final. They converted just six of their 21 scoring shots to lead by just four goals. They should have been ten goals up and the game should have been over. Carey finished with one goal and four behinds in an uncharacteristic display of inaccuracy, and allowed the chance for North Melbourne to nab three flags in four years slip through their fingers.

How would that North Melbourne team be remembered had Carey and his teammates converted, even at 50% in that first half? The score would have been 10.11 at worst. The Crows had just 4.3 on the board and were being thoroughly outplayed. A 44-point deficit may well have been too much for Adelaide to overcome, but North left the door open, and Adelaide stormed right on in.

Still, Carey and his Kangaroos would bounce back in 1999 and claim the flag they could’ve secured in ’98. They were the team of the 90s, undoubtedly, but it all came crashing down in one fell swoop as the affair between Carey and Kelli Stevens, the wife of his mate and vice-captain, was exposed during a party at Glen Archer’s house just a couple of years later.

Hailed as the best player of his generation, and one of the greatest to ever pull on a pair of boots, Carey could have been forgiven for thinking he could do no wrong. He was the chosen one – hand-picked from the Under 19s to play with the seniors – too good to run around with the kids.

It was only a year or two after he debuted that I sat at the MCG watching a boy become a man. Against the Bombers, Carey was one of only a couple of North players to stand up, collecting 24 touches, 13 marks and kicking three goals in a ten goal loss. Yes, the Kangaroos were belted, but they’d unearthed a superstar, and it would not take long for the rest of the footy world to take notice.

Carey’s reign as the King of Footy, particularly in Melbourne, started to take shape later in 1990, as he rammed through seven goals against the Swans, and his six goals several weeks later proved that this guy was definitely no fluke. However, as Carey grew in stature and confidence, his attitude, particularly when fuelled by alcohol, began to have detrimental effects on him.

He was charged with indecent assault after groping a woman’s breasts on the streets of Melbourne, advising her to get a bigger pair of tits. Whilst Carey would settle in a civil suit, there appeared the first sign of tarnish on the image of the North Melbourne golden boy.

Eyebrows were raised when Carey provided a character reference for notorious Melbourne gangland figure, Jason Moran in 2000. Believe me – if there was someone who you would not give a character reference for, it was Moran. I played local footy with him, and in a practice game (Jason never played seniors when the season started – straight into to the seconds) and after I laid a shepherd for him to get a kick away, I trotted off downfield. I heard a bit of commotion behind me and turned around to see the guy I got with a hip and shoulder clutching his bleeding face in agony. I looked at a teammate, concerned I might have got him high.

Turns out it wasn’t me that inflicted the damage. After getting his kick away, Moran turned around, went back to the bloke I’d got with a hip and shoulder and stomped on the side of his head… for having the audacity to try to tackle him.

Carey vouched for his character.

It was following the 2001 season that the shit hit the proverbial fan at Arden Street, with the Carey-Stevens situation throwing the club into complete disarray. The Kangaroos had finished 13th and missed the finals for the first time since 1992, but they still had the game’s biggest name on the books, and the nucleus of a team that was still very dangerous.

But they got substantially less dangerous when the unworkable situation of a captain sleeping with the wife of his best mate and vice-captain became apparent. The rift in the North Melbourne Football Club took years to repair – some would argue that the very fabric of the club was torn that day, and though it would be stitched back together, you could always see where the tear was made. Though the hearts of the Shinboners bled for Anthony Stevens and Glen Archer, there remained a soft spot for the man who would go on to be voted their greatest ever play in 2019. Carey was physically out of the club, but his shadow still loomed large over the Kangaroos.

Carey sat out a year of football before returning to the AFL with a two-year stint with the Adelaide Crows. Was it a success? Well… not really. Past his prime, still struggling to balance a turbulent private life, unable to get himself under control, and unable to stay on the park, Carey missed six games in his first season, and 12 in the second before announcing his retirement. However, life after football was not going to be a smooth ride for Carey.

It was going to get much worse.

His split with his wife and subsequent relationship with model, Kate Neilson was splashed across the front pages of Australian newspapers, but that would pale in comparison to the scrutiny he would be under as allegations of domestic violence surfaced during the pair’s time in the United States in 2006.

This would be followed by an arrest, with the assistance of capsicum spray, when police were called to a disturbance at his residence.

Channel Nine announced it would be parting ways with the former North captain after it was alleged that Carey had “glassed” Nielson in an incident in Miami in 2017. Upon being arrested, Carey was alleged to have assaulted police officers.

The report of the incident states that Carey kicked a female officer in the face and elbowed another officer in the side of the head before trying to smash a hole in the dividing compartment of the police car.

Suffice to say, Wayne was not in a good way and needed some help, desperately.

He plead guilty to assaulting the Miami police and to resisting arrest and though there were the usual hoops to jump through, he avoided jail time.

In 2008, a remorseful Carey started a path to redemption, admitting he was a cocaine and alcohol abuser. His 2009 biography, The Truth Hurts, detailed the levels he fell to as drug and alcohol use spun out of control. Carey appeared to want to own the mistakes he made and also revealed much about his childhood in the process. These were the actions of a man looking to make amends and start anew.

But as much as the industry appeared to forgive Wayne in time, segments of the public proved to be tougher nuts to crack.

Carey re-joined the coverage of football with the Triple M football team in 2012 and became a regular with Channel Seven in 2014.

But nit everyone was so quick to put things behind them. We here at The Mongrel have our ears to the ground when it comes to how the public feel. Unlike many, we read the comments, we take notice of public opinion, and what I see and read indicates to me that some crimes are harder to forgive than others. Glassing a female is close to unforgivable. Domestic abuse is the same. Yes, the spectre of drugs and alcohol are horrible influences, and Carey has owned up to them getting the better of him, but apologising, in the eyes of many, does not absolve you of your sins.

When his name comes up in a conversation or online thread, chances are within the first ten comments, someone will reference his history of poor behaviour. When he does something worthwhile, such as donating his time to a cause like the EJ Whitten game, some will inevitably state that his involvement is bringing the stature of the game down due to his involvement.

Maybe those who refuse to forgive have a point? Whilst I am sure they are willing to offer second chances, offering a third, or fourth chance is stretching the friendship. Maybe they believe Carey didn’t deserve the chances he got?

For some, forgiveness is a bridge too far, particularly those who have a history of being on the receiving end of behaviour the likes of which Carey displayed.

Personally, I struggle with my memory of Carey and how I see him now. Events of the last few days have me shaking my head once again.

I remain a fan of the player and choose to remember that Wayne Carey as a completely separate entity from the man he became after his body betrayed him and football left him behind. And then I choose to see that man, who was out of control, broken, and spiralling as a different person from the man I’ve seen around South Melbourne recent years. It’s as though we are in the third phase of Wayne Carey right now – I was hoping he had settled and this is the last phase we see him in. Foolishly, I still do. As I said, I remain a fan.

I remember being at Arden Street when you could basically walk-on to the Under 19s squad and have a run in the preseason. I remember seeing the kid in the body of a man rising above the pack, time and time again as I looked on in awe, exchanging glances with my mates and wondering what the hell we were doing at North Melbourne when there were blokes there that could do what he was doing. I remember him running with the flight of the ball and taking ridiculously courageous marks long before Nick Riewoldt and Jonathon Brown threw caution to the wind and ran directly into harm’s way. And I remember him as the bullocking, brash and powerful captain of the North Melbourne Kangaroos as they established a brand of football that was quite simply irresistible in the 1990s.

However, try as I might, Carey’s brilliant, and perhaps incomparable career on the field will always be overshadowed by what he did a) to ruin it, and b) following the end of that career.

People booed Wayne Carey when he played. It was a badge of honour for him at the time – he was just so damn good! But as much as people loved to hate him when he played, he only really became a bonafide villain once he left the game.

It was then that he let himself down, and it was then that had even the most ardent Carey supporters shaking their heads and wondering if their faith had been misplaced.

I see Wayne sometimes now in his third phase. He doesn’t know me, but he has brought his kids into my work several times. We exchange a nod and a “g’day” but that’s about it. He has no idea I write for The Mongrel Punt. I doubt he knows what The Mongrel Punt is (maybe I should wear my Mongrel apparel to work now and again).

When I observed him in recent years, he looked every bit like a doting father. He’s quiet, playful and always takes time to have a chat to those who approach him – it’s usually fathers of other children in the service I manage.

He will likely never shake the tag of domestic abuse or assault. He may never completely rid himself of the demons that threatened to drag him down to dark places, and some people will never, ever forgive Wayne Carey.

Now, after years of trying to rebuild an image, we have him standing down from his role with Channel Seven.

Here we go again? I sincerely hope not.

Perhaps Carey was one who was born to play the role villain and found himself thrust into the role of hero, instead. Maybe he will always wear the black hat because that is simply who he is.

He’s Wayne Carey – Superstar Villain.



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