Career : 1913 - 1914
Debut : Round 11, 1913 vs South Melbourne, aged 18 years, 279 days
Carlton Player No. 280
Games : 3
Goals : 2
Guernsey No. 9
Last Game : Round 12, 1914 vs University, aged 19 years, 285 days
Height : 182 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 81 kg (12 stone, 11 lbs.)
DOB : 22 September 1894
Justin McCarthy’s time in the VFL spanned a remarkable 13 years, during which he played 59 games at two clubs. He is best-remembered as a dual Premiership player for Essendon in 1923-24, but a long time prior to that he began his career with the Navy Blues.
Born in Alberton, near Yarram in south-eastern Victoria, McCarthy was living in Melbourne by 1913, and enjoying his football on weekends with North Melbourne Juniors. Early in that year, he found his way to Princes Park, and after impressing Blues’ captain-coach Jack Wells, was selected for his first game for his new club against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval in round 11.
Wearing guernsey number 9 and playing alongside Harry Haughton and Viv Valentine in Carlton’s ruck, 18 year-old McCarthy was somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion. Even so, his two successful shots at goal were quite handy. Carlton only kicked five goals all match, and ended up losing by 47 points. That turned out to be Justin's only game for the year, because he was omitted from the side the following week and wasn't considered again before season's end. He stuck around however, to see what might occur when Norman Clark took over as coach in 1914.
What happened was that McCarthy was selected twice in his second season; in round 6 against Melbourne, and round 12 against University; but thereafter missed out as Carlton went on to beat South Melbourne for the Premiership in a stirring Grand Final. Amidst the celebrations – or perhaps before – Justin departed Princes Park, and his life throughout the next decade remains a mystery.
It is known that he was playing VFA football with Footscray in 1921, and that Essendon encouraged him to have another crack at top shelf football, with great results for both parties. McCarthy became the Same Old’s regular centre half-forward, and was widely acclaimed as Best on Ground in their 1923 Premiership victory over Fitzroy. He was there again in 1924, when the VFL experimented with a round-robin final series, and Essendon were proclaimed back-to-back Premiers.
McCarthy played on with the Dons until 1926, when he retired after kicking 60 goals in 56 matches. He faded from view again after that, until he passed away at the age of 86 in February, 1981.
FootnoteThe Independent (Footscray) reported 10 April 1915 that "McCarthy a big fellow from Carlton" tried out with Footscray.
Two weeks later on April 24, the newspaper reported that McCarthy had been retained on Footscay's training list.
The Brighton Southern Cross May 29 1915 (p3), McCarthy "a follower from Carlton" was named at centre half-back for Brighton.
"McCarthy did not show out in the first half, but in the last quarter when placed on the ball, he demonstrated his skill. When he strikes form he should materially strengthen the second ruck."
LinksArticles: The Fish that Got Away
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Justin McCarthy | McCarthy's Blueseum Image Gallery