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Hall of Fame - and veterinarian...

Andrew McKay

show_image.php?id=2321Career : 1993 - 2003
Debut : Round 1, 1993 vs Fitzroy, aged 22 years, 256 days
Carlton Player No. 988
Games : 244
Goals : 28
Last Game : Round 22, 2003 vs North Melbourne, aged 33 years, 48 days
Guernsey No. 5
Height : 185 cm (6 ft. 1 in.)
Weight : 89 kg (14 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB : 14 July, 1970
Premiership Player 1995
Best and Fairest 2003
All Australian 1993, 1999, 2000, 2001
Carlton Hall 0f Fame 2001


Like many other Carlton champions, Andy McKay just seemed to go on forever. A warrior at half-back for the Blues for 11 seasons, he was resolute, reliable and most of the time, utterly impassable. His career began with a Grand Final defeat in his debut year, then soared to redemption only two seasons later. From then on, through the near-misses of 1999 and 2000, and into the looming catastrophe of the first decade of this troubled century, Andrew Ian McKay stood – and still stands – as an all-time great of the Carlton Football Club.

Carlton’s match committee knew ‘Macka’ was something special well before he was recruited from SANFL heavyweights Glenelg at pick 13 in the 1992 National Draft. (His original club was Lucindale, which is just west of Naracoorte, SA). Although he had played only 40 senior matches for the Bays, he had finished runner-up to Nathan Buckley of Port Adelaide in the ’92 Margarey Medal. The Blues were thrilled to sign him - and it only took two games to see just why.

Wearing guernsey number 5, he played across the centre in his first outing for the Blues, in round 1 of 1993 against Fitzroy at Princes Park. Carlton’s centre line on that occasion featured McKay and Fraser Brown on the wings, with Greg Williams in the pivot. All three got plenty of the football on that cloudy Saturday afternoon, although Fitzroy proved too good and won by six points.

McKay was shifted to his preferred half-back flank for his second game – the match of the round between Carlton and Essendon at the MCG – and announced his arrival as an AFL footballer with a dominant display in one of the games of the season. While the two bitter rivals fought out a high-scoring (132 points apiece) draw, Andy dominated his flank, beat two opponents, and was awarded his first Brownlow Medal vote. From that day on he was never left out of Carlton’s senior team, except for those rare occasions when he was injured.

After an impressive year, the Blues wound up 1993 second on the ladder (by percentage only) to Essendon, then shot to outright flag favouritism with a pulsating 2-point win over the Bombers in the Qualifying Final. Three weeks later (in only his twenty-third senior game) Andrew McKay ran out onto the MCG in front of 96,000 vocal fans to play Essendon yet again in the Grand Final.

Many commentators felt that Carlton’s experience (despite the withdrawal of key defender Peter Dean) would give the Blues an edge – but they were very wide of the mark. The younger and far more committed Bombers played all over the Blues from the first bounce, and thrashed us by 44 points in probably our worst Grand Final defeat. It was a loss that burned deep for years afterward at Princes Park, particularly because it saw Essendon draw level with Carlton at the top of the AFL Premiership table, with 15 flags each.

While the year ended badly for Carlton as a whole, McKay could hardly have done more as a first-year player. He was selected in the South Australian State of Origin team mid-season, finished among the top 10 in Carlton’s Best and Fairest award, and capped all that off by being named an All Australian. Over his subsequent career he would represent his home state on five more occasions, and be presented with an All Australian blazer in 1993, 1999, 2000 and 2001.

By 1995, McKay was a integral part of one of Carlton’s best-ever defensive combinations, including Michael Sexton, Ang Christou, Matthew Hogg, Stephen Silvagni and Peter Dean. To a man they were stars when Carlton destroyed Geelong by ten goals in the ‘95 Grand Final, and wiped out the despair of two years before.

In 1996 Andy told Carlton coach David Parkin that he intended moving to Brisbane to take up an offer from Queensland University of full-time study toward a degree in veterinary science. To surprise in some quarters, Parkin not only agreed, he firmly encouraged his backline star to take the step, telling Andy that his later life outside football was equally, if not more important. So Macka spent the year up north, training with the university team during the week, and flying to games independently each weekend. His form may have tapered slightly, but he was still a valuable asset. And he became even more important to the club when a raft of retirements at the end of the year included champions Stephen Kernahan and Greg Williams, as well as stalwarts Earl Spalding, Justin Madden and Mil Hanna.

No team could lose that list of quality and experience without hurting badly. Carlton languished on the lower rungs of the AFL ladder for two years – until 1999, when we qualified for the finals again in sixth place, and fought our way through to one of this great football club’s proudest moments - the ’99 Preliminary Final against minor premiers Essendon.

The story of that epic match is well-known by every keen Bluebagger. Carlton’s tenacity and relentless pressure, Kouta’s heroics, and that last, desperate match-saving tackle by the ‘junkyard dog’; Fraser Brown, that won the game for us by one precious point. But McKay too, was superb, picking up the loose men rotated through Essendon’s attack. At various times he was forced to onto giants Alessio and Wallis, midfielders Long and Misiti or the rover Moorcroft – all of whom he kept under a tight rein. After that famous victory, Carlton’s loss to North Melbourne in the Grand Final was an anti-climax, because once again we had stopped Essendon from winning a flag they were sure was theirs.

Rookie coach Wayne Brittain took over at Princes Park in 2001, relying heavily on his seasoned campaigners like McKay, Koutoufides, Bradley and Silvagni to lead the way. Andy enjoyed another stellar season in which he celebrated his 200th game, finished fourth in Carlton’s Best and Fairest, was named All Australian for the fourth time – and remarkably, was inducted into Carlton’s Hall of Fame while still playing.

However, through no real fault of his own, Brittain’s second season turned into the blackest period of Carlton’s history. After finishing the year with Carlton’s first-ever wooden spoon, Brittain was sacked and replaced by former North Melbourne Premiership coach Denis Pagan, just as a scandal erupted amid accusations of salary-cap rorting by the club administration. In the aftermath, long-serving club President John Elliott resigned, and the club was severely penalised by heavy fines and draft exclusions.

On top of all this, club captain Brett Ratten suffered a career-ending shoulder injury in round 10, 2003. As vice-captain, Andrew McKay was pitched into the hot seat as ‘Ratts’ replacement, and responded with the same calm professionalism he had shown throughout his career. The Blues only won four games all year, yet Macka led by example and collected his first club Best and Fairest award in what turned out to be his last season.

After deliberating for some time at the end of that year, Macka eventually decided that it was as good a time as any to finish up. He was farewelled with widespread and genuine appreciation right across our national game, and for a while concentrated his efforts on his veterinary practice. But the game still called him, and in 2005 he accepted a position on the AFL Match Review Panel. In 2007, he was appointed Chairman of the MRP - the same year he was inducted into the SANFL Hall of Fame. A year later he joined the Laws Committee, whose task is to consult with all AFL clubs on matters relating to the rules of the game.

Then in October 2011, McKay was welcomed back to Princes Park as Football Operations Manager; a crucial role that had been left vacant for some weeks by the sudden resignation of Steven Icke. Now, as 2017 looms, he continues to serve his beloved Blues with the same calm efficiency he showed throughout his playing career.

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A lack of media hype may have understated the high level of aggression and courage on display each and every week. During the mid-nineties he made the unique decision (for football) to spasmodically play in order to obtain a degree in Veterinary Science. Said decision may have allowed for a refreshed mental state towards the latter years of his career.


Milestones

50 Games - Round 4, 1995 vs Brisbane Bears
100 Games - Round 14, 1997 vs Western Bulldogs
150 Games - Round 22, 1999 vs Richmond
200 Games - Round 21, 2001 vs Collingwood

Career Highlights

1993 - All Australian
1993 - 9th Best and Fairest
1993 - Best First Year Player
1995 - 10th Best and Fairest
1995 - Premiership Player
1997 - 3rd Best and Fairest
1997 - Pre-Season Premiership Player
1999 - 4th Best and Fairest
1999 - Best Clubman
1999 - All Australian
2000 - 4th Best and Fairest
2000 - All Australian
2001 - 4th Best and Fairest
2001 - All Australian
2001 - Carlton Hall of Fame
2002 - 2nd Best and Fairest
2003 - Best Clubman
2003 - Best and Fairest

Articles: That First Pick...Players taken with Carlton's first pick in the draft

Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Andrew McKay | Career Breakdown | Captains | McKay's Blueseum Image Gallery