Kate McCarthy - AFLW - AthletesVoice
Kate McCarthy - AFLW - AthletesVoice


You can call me ‘Metalheart’

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You can call me ‘Metalheart’


When I was four or five, I had a seizure at home and I completely passed out.


At the time it looked like an epileptic fit, so I had some tests done and it ruled that one out. I had a Holter Monitor put on one night and I found out that my heart stopped 30 or 40 times in the night. They found out that I had an ‘intermittent 3’ heart blockage. Now and again it would stop beating, but it would always restart itself.


I went through childhood having one seizure every couple of years from then on. When I was 10, the cardiologist mentioned having a pacemaker implanted. He said that because the seizures were so irregular, they would wait as long as they could until I actually need one, because the problem might fix itself.


Then when I was 12, I had a seizure at school one day. An ambulance came, and I had a seizure in the ambulance, then another one in the emergency department. I think I had seven seizures that day.


When I had my seizures, I would lose consciousness for about 20 or 30 seconds when the seizure was happening, then come back to after that. I think the most concerning thing for Mum and Dad was that I was really into sport – I did triathlons, so lots of swimming and bike riding – and they were really worried about what would happen if something happened while I was swimming or bike riding.


So I had emergency surgery the next day and they put a pacemaker in, and it was all fixed up from there. It’s never happened since then.


The pacemaker is a little metal device implanted just above my heart and it has two wires that run down to the atrium and ventricles of my heart. Basically, there’s a node in each and it paces all the time to make sure that my heart beats regularly.


I can actually feel it because I’m quite lean. You can feel all the contours and lines of it on my chest. People always want to feel it – and then they get freaked out when they do!


Before the first game of the AFLW season, I tweeted about being potentially the first person to play an AFL game with a pacemaker, and put the hashtag #metalheart on it. That tweet really took off.


I don’t actually call myself ‘metalheart’, but I don’t mind if anyone does!




shocking the boys

I like to think that nothing scares me.


I’m only 58 kilos and I don’t think anything feels better than bringing down a bigger opponent when you’re running around at my size. I guess my favourite part of football is the physicality of it.


The pacemaker is a little metal device implanted just above my heart… People always want to feel it – and then they get freaked out when they do!


I’m trying to increase my weight a bit in the off-season, just doing lots of gym work and trying to bulk up a little bit by eating a bit more. I usually come into pre-season a little bit heavier but with the amount of running I do in games and pre-season, I get down to my playing weight of 58 or 59 kilos.


Growing up, my first sport was cricket. I played with the boys my whole life. I don’t know if I was better than them, but I definitely matched it with them. The last year that I played with the boys, we entered a girls’ team into the boys competition. I think a few of the boys were a bit surprised when we either beat them or got very close to beating them. I think it hurt their pride a little bit.



I also played touch football for around 12 years and I went on to represent Queensland and Australia.


I first started with AFL in 2015 in the QWAFL competition. Coming from touch football to AFL, I think the big thing that’s helped me is that on a touch football field, you have to make a decision so quickly because it’s obviously such a small field and there are just six people from each team on it.


Yes, AFL footy is chaotic and quick, but you still get longer than in touch football to make a decision. So I think my decision-making skills have transferred over from touch and really helped.


One thing my teammates say about me is I’m often first to congratulate a goal kicker. In a lot of photos I seem to be hugging Sabrina Frederick-Traub, who is my best mate in the team.



I’m not sure why I’m so often the first one that gets in there for a hug. I don’t know if I’m just conveniently always in the right spot, or if it’s because I am always trying to get the perfect celebration photo with my mates.


One theory is that I not only have a metal heart, I have a big heart!



It all adds up

It’s school holidays now, which is nice because it means I have a brief break from my ‘other life’ as a maths and PE teacher.


I didn’t always plan on being a maths teacher in particular, but I did know I always wanted to be a teacher. The day that I had to log on and accept my course, I knew that one of my majors was going to be PE obviously with such an interest in sport, and I actually wanted one of my majors to be IT.


But the way the IT industry is developing so quickly, you actually have to study some sort of information technology course, and then major in teaching. You can’t do it as part of your course, so I was like, ‘Oh god, I’ve only got a couple of hours to decide what I want to do’. And then I was just like, ‘Oh I’ll do maths, I’ve always enjoyed maths’. So I went from there and studied it.


I’m not sure why I’m so often the first one that gets in there for a hug. I don’t know if I’m just conveniently always in the right spot, or if it’s because I am always trying to get the perfect celebration photo with my mates.


I was asked recently if there’s any way that maths helps me in footy. I think it helps with like analysing graphs and data and our GPS and things like that. Maybe with angles as well. I guess it helps calculating the score too!


Maths is actually something that I really love. I probably prefer teaching maths to PE because I’m a very structured person and I really like the way that there’s a right answer with maths – there’s no conjecture about whether you’ve got it right or wrong. The kids like (and sometimes hate) that about maths as well.


To help kids achieve things that they don’t normally achieve in maths is probably the most rewarding part of my job.


Being a teacher and an elite sportsperson means my students get to watch me on TV. A few of the girls have made comments that I’m a big role model to them, which is great. They look at me playing footy and see that there’s nothing that should stop them from doing what they want to do. I try to be a role model and a teacher at the same time, though it’s not always easy.


Officially re-signed for 2019, just ask these people ?? #AFLW @lionsaflw

A post shared by Kate McCarthy (@kate.mac.9) on


The Lions have been in both AFLW grand finals, and grand final weeks are pretty busy at school. There’s a lot of hype in the staff room and everyone really gets excited. The hardest thing is to put a lid on it and just focus on playing football.


Before our first grand final, we were really excited and talked up the game as much as we could. In the first year, we definitely let the occasion get to us. For the second one, we were a lot more relaxed and just treated it as another game of football. It was a completely different approach second time around, and I really thought that we were going to win with the way that we’d approached the game, and how we started the game and everything like that.


I guess it’s pretty disappointing that we didn’t quite get there.


It was pouring down rain the whole day in Melbourne for the grand final and we didn’t score in the middle two quarters. We came out of the blocks really well, but then we had a couple of shots on goal that just missed and they had some long-range shots that bounced in.


So the fall of the ball kind of went their way in those middle quarters and we couldn’t quite get the momentum back. We were very close at the end – we got a couple of goals back in the last quarter – but just couldn’t quite get there before the siren had gone.



a lion and a bronco?

I grew up in Brisbane and live there with my partner Rosie. We just moved into an apartment in Newstead in inner Brisbane. We’ve got two little dachshunds which we absolutely adore, and they pretty much run our lives away from everything else we’re doing.


Life is pretty good at the moment but I’m always up for new challenges. I’ve been doing boundary line commentary work with Triple M at home Lions games in the men’s AFL, which I really enjoy.



I also do a lot of work in season with the Lions and host a couple of shows on their little TV channel. I would really love to change careers and get into media one day.


I’m also playing club AFL football at the moment in the QWAFL with the University of Queensland. We’re sort of mid-table at the moment. We had a few Lions players that had a bit of time off, but now we’re full strength again, so I think we’re in a good spot and can still make the finals.


Being from Brisbane, I was brought up with a rugby league background. I’m actually going to go down and try out for the Broncos, have a runaround and see if I can make it into their squad for the first NRL Women’s season, which takes place in September this year for the first time.



This first season is just a month, so I chatted to the Broncos coach Paul Dyer, and he said they needed some speed in their outside backs so I’m going to have a runaround and see how I go. The AFLW people are fine with it. They’re all good because it doesn’t interfere with our season and would make me nice and fit going into the pre-season.


A Bronco and a Lion, that’d be cool.





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