As he celebrated his 18th birthday on the second last day of the year, Sydney Swans forward Tom McCartin had a decision in front of him.
The young man was only just completing year 11 at St Joseph’s College in Geelong when the Swans called his name out with pick 33 in the 2017 national draft and he became the youngest player on an AFL list.
So as the year drew to a close and with the move from Geelong to Sydney successfully negotiated, the footballing cygnet had to make a call as to whether he should complete year 12 during his first season on AFL list.
The Swans, aware of his age and schooling, simplified their role to a basic premise.
They would support McCartin, the younger brother of St Kilda’s Paddy, with whatever decision he made.
Swans football manager Tom Harley told The Sunday Age he imagines that most people’s first instinct is that finishing school is the way to go.
But that opinion, Harley points out, is only a general one, not to be applied in every circumstance and often made before consideration of each individual’s different make-up.
Harley said the Swans’ role was to make sure they created the right options to make whatever decision McCartin made a good one and then make him aware of what possibilities lay in front of him.
The club sat down with Tom and his parents Matt and Jo – two people well respected in their local area for their sensible approach to the sons’ AFL careers – to make those options clear.
One was attending a local catholic school, Waverley College, in Sydney.
Finishing school at St Joseph’s, doing what his new teammate Dan Hannebery did in his first year at the club when he completed at Xavier, was a possibility.
McCartin could also look at options that would support him if he went down a trade-related path, which those who knew him suspected might suit.
“Most importantly the discussion was between Tom and his parents,” Harley said.
McCartin sounded out, among others, Hannebery and the club’s player welfare and development manager Dennis Carroll.
“Tom asked all the right people,” Harley said.
Then, along with his parents, McCartin made his call.
“I’ve decided not to do school this year,” McCartin told the club website.
“I had a chat to Mum and Dad and the club as well. In the end it was my decision.
“I’m more into the trade industry so I’ll probably head down that path. I’m doing a certificate 4, which all the other first years do so [I’m] looking forward to that.”
In the end a well-considered decision was made and McCartin, who is living with former Geelong Falcons teammate Matthew Ling, is in a good position to launch parallel futures.
“It was a really mature approach to it,” Harley said.
“It was probably a testament to the character of the family and Tom himself in the way the decision ultimately came about.”
AFL’S YOUNGEST PLAYERS AT ROUND ONE
▪ Tom McCartin (Sydney Swans) 18 years, 82 days
▪ Nathan Murphy (Collingwood) 18 years, 97 days
▪ Jacob Heron (Gold Coast) 18 years, 102 days
▪ Tyler Brown (Collingwood) 18 years, 103 days
▪ Aaron Naughton (Western Bulldogs) 18 years, 112 days