The 2012 Australian Football League finals are underway, and while it promises to be a good one, it will be tempered by the death of Port Adelaide Power midfielder John McCarthy. McCarthy, 22, fell off a hotel balcony in Las Vegas this weekend during a postseason team vacation.
Before joining Port Adelaide this season, McCarthy played for four seasons with Collingwood, who lost to Hawthorn 135-97 two days before his death. The Magpies face the West Coast Eagles Saturday in the semi-finals, and the winner will face Hawthorn in the preliminary finals next weekend. The semi-finals were already going to be tough for Collingwood, but the loss of their friend and former teammate will make it even harder for the Pies to get back to the Grand Final for a third consecutive year.
In other news, 2011 Premier Geelong will not repeat, as the #6 Tigers lost to #7 Fremantle 96-80. Fremantle will face #2 Adelaide, who lost to #3 Sydney 71-42. Only the North Melbourne Kangaroos, who were drubbed by West Coast 162-66, scored less than 70 points this weekend outside of Adelaide/Sydney. Even if the Adelaide Crows beat the Fremantle Dockers, they will have to face the Sydney Swans again in the preliminary finals.
The offseason has already begun for the other half of the 18-team AFL, with Port Adelaide and Carlton searching for new coaches. Former Carlton star Brett Ratten was fired after six years coaching his former team; the Blues were considered to be among the league's elite at the start of the season but finished 11-11. The Power let go of Matthew Primus during Round 19 after losing to wooden spoon "winner" Greater West Sydney. That was the expansion Giants' second and final win of the season, having defeated second-year Gold Coast in Round 7.