Port Adelaide used to be a football club that didn’t cry.
As tough as the nails holding the nearby wharves together, blue-collar Port was always a hard club.
John McCarthy has changed all that.
Thousands wept tears of sadness for the dead footballer at a public memorial at Port’s Alberton Oval base on Thursday.
The 22-year-old spent the last 10 months of his life at Port Adelaide.
But as teammate Brad Ebert said, “we felt like he was here for 10 years”.
McCarthy fell to his death at a Las Vegas casino while on an end-of-season trip with 10 other Port players.
Since then, the club has been through a tumble-dryer of emotion.
“This accident took one of our special people, a warrior of this club,” Port’s deputy chairman Kevin Osborn, in tears, told about 2000 mourners at Alberton.
“Rest assured, he will not be forgotten.”
Ebert, in a pre-recorded video message, said McCarthy’s legacy “will live on forever”.
“You couldn’t find a bad word about him,” Ebert said.
“It is amazing to see how he touched so many people in such a short amount of time, but that was just how he was.”
Port’s chaplain, Reverend Brandon Chaplin, said the club was in “heavy surf” and was being struck by waves of grief, shock, denial and anger.
“John was only here at this football club for a year, but he made a great impact on everyone,” he said.
The memorial service preceded McCarthy’s funeral in his Victorian home town of Sorrento.