When the Brisbane Lions came knocking on Lincoln McCarthy’s door earlier this year, his first thought was to decline their proposal.
After all, Geelong had stood by the perennially unlucky seven-year forward, and had put an offer on the table in 2019 for him to stay.
To put it lightly, however, he wasn’t in the best head space to make a decision then and there.
He had played just five games across 2017 and 2018, and the time out of the game had sparked some serious consideration to the outside world, and whether continuing his career was the right option.
McCarthy admitted that he grappled with the thought of giving football away entirely in the past two years, and it was those thoughts that led him down the path of a change of scenery.
“I did think about giving the game up, especially this year. I just got a bit sick of it,” McCarthy told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“Some days I wished I could move forward in a different occupation. I started to feel like I had become dead wood at Geelong because I wasn’t able to get on the park. I had consistent thoughts of, ‘I can’t wait to work in construction or be a builder.’ It made me spend a lot of time thinking about what I was doing and whether playing was the right thing or not, so that is what led to my thinking of going elsewhere.”
In seven years with Geelong, he managed just 29 games, and while he felt he owed the football club something for consistently standing by him, a fresh start seemed like the only way of allowing the 24-year-old to continue playing.
He has endured a spate of injuries across his AFL journey, with issues in the past to his groin, hip, back, foot and quad being the most notable.
“After my body kept letting me down, I thought maybe it was time for a change and to experience a new part of the country,” McCarthy added.
“It was a tough call to make. It’s fine to think about things, but until you get to the business end of it, that’s when you realise, ‘I’ve got to let go of a club that has given me the best opportunity for seven years.’”
The realisation that he would be moving on from Geelong was something McCarthy struggled to come to terms with initially, especially when it came to communicating that to a club that had not only stood by him, but continually backed him.
“As soon as I was available, they always picked me and gave me a good crack. They have been terrific, even in this transition period. They have been so open to chat about anything and I have tried to be as honest as possible from when I was starting to have second thoughts about being there or not. They understood my situation that I was getting a bit sick of not being able to play.”
The decision to move on from the Cats and pursue the Lions offer didn’t come easily, but it was decided upon due to four key factors.
The list at their disposal, the football they played in 2018, the warmer climate and their administration, with the likes of David Noble and Chris Fagan standing out in particular.
For the first time in a long time, McCarthy enters an off-season without requiring surgery, and while he isn’t firing on all cylinders just yet, the expectation is to join the younger Brisbane group for training in the first week of November, and steadily build into the new year.
“Without going from zero to hero — it’s a very long pre-season — the most important thing for me is to gradually build.”
Since the trade was completed on Monday morning, McCarthy’s phone has been buzzing like crazy with text messages, but he isn’t certain who all of them are coming from.
“I have received a lot of messages from people at the Lions, but on Saturday my phone fell off my car and smashed everywhere so I didn’t have a phone for about five days,” he joked.
“I was unable to know who was messaging me, but I do very much appreciate all the welcoming messages I have received.”
Player movement at this time of year can result in differing results for the parties involved. Some requests can leave a club dumbfounded, and others move on with their blessing.
In the case of Lincoln McCarthy, however, both parties were happy to execute a trade for the betterment of all.
“Geelong and Brisbane were pretty comfortable that they could get an agreement done,” he explained.
“I want to reiterate how grateful I am to Geelong.”
As for Brisbane, they get a player desperate to prove a point who fits the age bracket of 23-26 that David Noble wanted to fill.