Wayne Carey: Your typical angry white male
Before Ben Cousins, there was Wayne Carey. The full forward from Wagga became the King of North Melbourne and the greatest train wreck of them all.
His legendary love of a bender – and a life without boundaries - culminated in a famous sex act somewhere between the tooth brush holder and the soap dish with his best mate’s wife.
Carey was the perfect example of a sports star whose self-loathing only increased the more the public fell in love with him. I don’t know if he’s ever met Andrew Johns, but you’d imagine they would have plenty to talk about.
Carey’s autobiography, The Truth Hurts, promises to be the sports book of the year. Patrick Carlyon has written a cracking piece in today’s Herald Sun in which Carey reflects on the booze and cocaine-fuelled days and nights that shadowed his brilliant career.
There was the Miami police cell where, after smashing a wine glass in the face of former fiancee Kate Neilson, he stood wearing nothing but his underpants, bleeding from the cuts inflicted by police who neither knew or or cared about his football pedigree back home.
“If I had a degree, it would be in self sabotage,” Carey tells the Herald Sun. “Because really it was just a case of not dealing with the things that should have been dealt with, then getting to a point like a volcano building up.”
This book will prompt plenty of hand-wringing about self-indulgent footballers, but the truth is Carey is not too different from many poor, angry white males of his generation. He was brought up in a cycle of alcohol and violence and thought everybody lived the same way. Walk into a suburban hotel at eight-o-clock tonight and you’ll find any number of young blokes in Tsubi jeans and Elwood t-shirts whose life experience has been exactly the same. The cocaine and Miami vice might not be there, but only because they can’t afford it.
Carey had the dangerous combination of a heap of money and a whole lot of personal problems. The sides he played for found it hard to win without him and even harder to say no when he wanted to stretch a post-game beer into its second or third day.
Carey says he’s “terribly ashamed” of what’s in the book, but his message is an important one for angry young men who feel destined to repeat the life patterns set by their fathers and grandfathers. Just like Andrew Johns’ excellent autobiography, The Two of Me, this will not be a book about sport at all.
He recalls missing wife Sally’s 30th birthday dinner because he was on the drink elsewhere with friends. “I thought that’s how blokes behaved and young blokes behaved and I really thought that was the norm,” he says. “I didn’t think there were too many doing it differently. That’s how I rationalised it in my head.”
For non-AFL fans, Carey’s decline first registered after the news that he had an affair with Kelli Stevens, the wife of his Kangaroos teammate Anthony. The tawdry details about the bathroom encounter was a rollicking tale at first, but then it just became sad. Friendships and marriages were torn up and scattered like confetti on game day.
Who can forget the tragic sight of Carey confronting his North Melbourne teammates for the first time after switching to the Crows? There was Carey at full forward, looking like he wanted to be anywhere else, while Glenn Archer (quite rightly) looked for any opportunity to take out the man who had so fiercely betrayed Anthony Stevens. Dennis Cometti said it was more like the Family Court than a game of footy and he was right.
Carey first began confessing his sins on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope and it was immediately clear how much more fragile and genuine he seemed than in his playing days. He looked, well, smaller. He had stripped back all that cockiness and allowed the audience too see him for what he was: a balding, single dad in his late 30s who had stuffed up big-time.
That experience obviously did Carey some good and he’s working through the same kind of confessional therapy in The Truth Hurts. Don’t read the book because you feel sorry for him. Read it because he has some interesting things to say about addiction, love and how hard it can be for a man to outrun his past.
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