How the COVID shutdown helped Swans rookie achieve his dream

New Swan Malachy Carruthers at the 2020 Draft Combine. Photo: Sydney Swans

When it comes to draft day stories, there aren’t many more unusual than that of new Sydney Swans rookie Malachy Carruthers. 

Having spent the previous night watching the national draft with family, a disappointed Carruthers would take up a work offer moving sand and bark with three of his best mates not knowing what was going to come next. 

The rest as they say is history. 

“The night before [the national draft] I got a bit unlucky, waiting all night and nothing happening so I went to bed pretty devastated and accepted that it was all over and I’d have to go out and work hard next year to get another opportunity,” Carruthers told The Inner Sanctum. 

“I then decided to go to work the next day with a couple of mates at a child care centre, shovelling bark and things in the back garden. 

“We then thought we’d have a bit of a lunch break and watch the live blog of the rookie draft, so sitting in one of the offices of this child care centre I saw my name pop up on the screen and we all just exploded with excitement.” 

The Sturt product would be selected with the third pick of the 2020 rookie draft by the Sydney Swans, with the emotion and pride of seeing his name on the screen evident in his recollection of the day. 

“I kind of looked at the boys then back at the blog and I just couldn’t believe it, I honestly thought I was in a dream,” Carruthers said.

“I then properly read my name and from there it was pretty surreal, a lot of emotions going through me mostly being excitement. 

“It definitely was a good moment to have that reward for working so hard.” 

In order to experience this moment of euphoria, Carruthers would undergo years of hard work as he built his body and skills up to the level of an AFL- listed footballer. 

He talks about the lofty goals he set for himself heading into his draft year and the methods by which he went about achieving them. 

“Going into the year my number one goal was obviously to go all the way [and get drafted],” he said.

“However, along the way I went about setting myself smaller goals whether it be getting stronger and putting on more weight to compete with the bigger bodies or improving my defensive skills and craft.

“These little stepping stones had a big impact on my game and really paid off in getting me to where I am now.” 

Having completed arduous pre season programs with both Sturt and his school St Peter’s College, Carruthers was keen to hit the ground running come round one and start improving his draft stock. 

This is where the curse of COVID-19 kicked in, with both the SANFL and school season’s quickly shut down and footballers across the country left in a state of limbo for three months. 

As some struggled with how to approach the shut down, Carruthers attacked it head on and jumped straight back into a period of intense training. 

“It felt like having three pre season’s, constantly working over that time I didn’t stop,” he said.

“It [the season stoppage] gave me time to work harder and get stronger so in a way it came at a great time for me as I was able to get back in the gym and get some more running in.”

This hard work over the COVID shut-down gave Carruthers a crucial edge heading into the eventual season resumption, as he explains the confidence that extra period of training gave him. 

“That period gave me the ability to get ahead of the other boys who would have stopped or had a break,” he said.

“It was something I could definitely use to get an edge on the other players [once the season started up again].” 

Carruthers would hit the ground running when the football season returned in late June with all of his hard work in the shut down paying off with some excellent performances for both Sturt and in the St Peter’s First XVII. 

He says his work during the shutdown was critical to his consistent form across the 2020 season. 

“It [the shutdown] definitely had a huge impact on how I played throughout the year,” he said.

“If I dropped off during that period my first few games probably would have been a bit slow and things could have definitely taken a different turn.” 

Carruthers was a stand out throughout the year with his ability to read the play through his intercepting and use the ball efficiently quickly garnering interest from AFL clubs.

One of they key pillars of Sturt’s run to the Under 18’s grand final, he showed an ability to perform in big games picking up 21 disposals in a gallant display on the losing side in the big dance. 

However, when asked about the highlight of his draft year Carruthers’ mind quickly jumps to his final match for St Peter’s where they were able to knock off arch rivals Prince Alfred College in the famous Intercollegiate match, breaking a seven year drought for the boys in blue. 

“It’s very hard to go past the Intercol win [as my season highlight],” he said.

“It was probably one of the best days of my life, being such a huge accomplishment for the boys breaking that seven year drought and getting over Princes it is something I certainly won’t forget.” 

Following the conclusion of the season, Carruthers would be placed in a state of uncertainty with no assurances from AFL club’s that he would find himself on a list.

“I had a few more interviews [following the season], the recruiters then give you a couple of weeks with no real contact as they sort out what they want to do,” he said.

“Going into draft night I wasn’t really confident.

“I knew around what picks I might get taken and the way the draft was going there was still really good players available towards the end for some reason. 

“My hopes definitely disappeared towards the back end.”

Fortunately for Carruthers, the Swans would waste little time in reading his name out the following day, with all his hard work instantly validated. 

He cannot be more thankful to be apart of the Sydney Swans community. 

“The Swans are great,” he said.

“All the boys are really welcoming, they get around you, guide you and help you out whether it be at training, in the gym or just getting around the city. 

“Sometimes at training I just think to myself what am I doing, being on the track stars like Lance Franklin and Luke Parker.

“I am just so thankful and excited to be apart of the Swans.”

Moving into the 2021 season, Carruthers is keen to continue his progression both on and off the field as he sets his sights on achieving his next big goal. 

“Everyone’s goal should be to play a game in their first year so that is definitely a goal of mine,” he said.

“If that doesn’t happen though I am just excited to keep chipping away, working on my body and getting stronger.”

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