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Footy family share the pain
Footy family share the pain

The death of footballer John McCarthy in Las Vegas this week has forced a WA family to again confront an emotional pain that has never really gone away.

There are haunting similarities between the Port Adelaide player's tragic fall from a casino roof and the death of Jeremy Silcock on an end-of-season trip with his East Perth teammates in 1996.

Silcock was 26 when he drowned accidentally in a Bali pool.

For his family, it feels like it has happened again. Both players died in mysterious circumstances after they split from teammates.

McCarthy's sister was travelling in the US when her brother fell to his death. Silcock's only sibling Mandy Anderson was travelling abroad when she was told of her brother's sudden death.

She described it this week as a "life-changing phone call".

On hearing of McCarthy's sad fate, aged just 22, on Monday, her own family's tragedy seemed like just yesterday.

And well-wishers were soon sending their thoughts all over again, knowing the Silcocks were again hurting over a loved one lost.

Mrs Anderson got straight on the phone to her cousin, Essendon midfielder Ben Howlett, telling him to stay safe when he flew to Las Vegas with Bombers teammates. Howlett was due to fly out on Wednesday but the trip was cancelled and the players went elsewhere.

Mrs Anderson spent a few pensive moments on Monday sitting at the rocks where her brother's ashes rest on the Donnybrook farm of her parents John and Mary.

She was angered by calls for an end to footy trips, saying players had earned the right to unwind.

But she said footballers had to understand and respect the rigours their bodies had endured through the season and make sure they looked after each other during trips.

"The footy players work damn hard all year round - they are committed, healthy and do the right thing by their bodies," Mrs Anderson said.

"Unfortunately, the majority of people just assume that the players misbehave and are always at fault.

"When we lost Jez, one of the things I was most angry about was people making assumptions.

"What I think could prevent any problems is a total buddy system, where players are totally responsible for each other, whatever happens. If you are going in separate directions, you need to find an alternative buddy before you leave.

"They just need to remember that some ramifications are life-long and don't just go away or get any easier."

Mrs Anderson said she had been overwhelmed this week with messages of support, but felt deeply for McCarthy's family and friends.

"I couldn't believe someone else was going to have to go through what we've been through - I felt sick," she said.

"The thing I find the hardest is that my kids don't have an uncle. But we do have football footage and watching all the tributes this week, I've been thinking how lucky the McCarthys are to have that, too, because it's a huge healer.

"They may be gone, but it makes them real."