In this Speccy special, we present an interview with the convicted footballer, Kade Carey. Carey - nephew of the notorious Wayne Carey - gives a somewhat guarded insight into the mentality of today's young footballers. While he's never played at AFL level himself, he got close and knows the scene intimately. He's also no stranger to strife, having been found guilty on violence charges stemming from the infamous Federation Square bashing incident in December 2001.
[Editor's Note: This interview was conducted in the weeks before Kade's "Bad Uncle" Wayne Carey got caught up in his most recent allegations of domestic violence, celebrity drug parties, assaults and foreign court cases came to light. As a courtesy to the Carey family, publication of this interview was delayed several weeks.]
The Speccy has been following the Fed Square brawl and trial since 2005. Kade Carey (Essendon, VFL), Dane Swan (Collingwood, AFL) and Aaron Ramsay (Williamstown, VFL) got drunk and, while at Federation Square, Carey kicked off a brawl that resulted in a number of people being hospitalised. Apparently, he threw himself on the bonnet of a passing car, breaking the windscreen. Evidence was presented at trial that he then lead the beating of a cleaner and three security guards, that he kicked a guard until police arrived, and that police had to use capsicum spray to subdue him after he threw a punch.
After several years, the three were finally found guilty at trial. Carey received a suspended sentence, a $3,000 fine and 200 hours of community work. Swan and Ramsay were also convicted, but escaped the suspended sentence and fine and had to do 100 and 120 hours respectively of community work. The judge's sentencing remarks ephasised their provocation. Naturally, we were outraged. Here was a blatant example of the worst kind of thuggish footballer behaviour going more-or-less unpunished by our legal system.
About two years after the verdict, Carey got in touch with this blog via a comment he left in January, 2008. Since this was a prime example of the kind of behaviour (and response) that we've railed against for some time, I seized the opportunity to do an interview, to take a journey into the heart of darkness. After thrashing out some ground rules, Carey agreed.
Naturally, I was concerned for my physical safety. After all, I had repeatedly and publicly described Kade Carey and his mates as thugs, dickheads, idiots etc. Other commentors had described him unflatteringly too. (For what it's worth, he had his apologists and I was abused with far worse threats and insults.) And let's not forget, he has prior convictions for violence and his Uncle Wayne to gave character evidence on behalf of (now slain) underworld hitman Jason Moran. His father, Dick Carey, is hardly the shy retiring type either.
So we agreed to an email interview, with some caveats around legalities (especially defamation). Of course, I can't be absolutely certain that my correspondent really is Kade Carey. I've satisfied myself of his bona fides and he's given me no reason to doubt his assertion. So what follows is the transcript of that interview, where Carey's responses have been lightly edited by me for spelling. The interview took place between 10th and 17th of January, 2008. Carey's response to this post is underneath.
The Speccy: The media reported you as being a VFL player for Essendon, but not in the AFL. How did you get into footy? What's been the highlight of your career to date? Where is your career presently at and what are your plans?
Kade Carey: I started playing footy in Wagga for the North Wagga Saints when I was very young. My father coached the seniors there and with Wayne playing in the AFL it was an easy choice. I moved to Melbourne when I was 16 and started a glazing apprenticeship. I then went on to play with the Calder Cannons for two years. The second year I was lucky enough to play in a premiership, that was certainly a highlight. Unfortunately I didn't do well in the draft, and the best I could do was a [support] list spot at Essendon, which means I'm only on the VFL list. I am currently playing in the EDFL for the Doutta Stars.
The Speccy: So is it fair to say you've been brought up in the footy culture? Was there an expectation growing up that footy was your future? Is the AFL still on the cards? Oh, and did you finish your apprenticeship?
Kade Carey: Footy culture? Your interpretation of footy culture and mine, from whatI have read in your blogs, varies a fair bit. Obviously footy was a big part of my younger years, it was all around me, so yes I always played football, at school, at home, and on the weekends because I loved it. It still is a passion for me but no there was no expectation for me to make the AFL from my family or friends,only myself. It was my goal to make the AFL when I moved to Melbourne, but I started working as soon as I arrived and always intended to make a career for my self, regardless. Yes, I have completed my apprenticeship, and am still working for the same company. I think I gave up hope of playing in the AFL after my court case and all of the bad media surrounding me and my friends. I still play football because it is something that I enjoy doing.
The Speccy: The Federation Square incident was reported as kicking off when you ran onto the road and jumped on the bonnet of a passing car, driven by a young woman, breaking the windscreen. You were then apparently verbally abused by the passenger before being dobbed into the security staff at Fed Square, which is where things got violent. To my knowledge, the public has never heard any explanation or account as to why you smashed that windscreen. Can you recall what you were thinking at the time? What do you think about it now, some four years later?
Kade Carey: The incident with the car and the three young ladies, I've been replaying in my head for the last four years, and I'm still not any clearer on It. You have heard their version of events. From my recollection I just got out of a taxi at Fed square, on Flinders Street. From the video it shows that myself and Aaron Ramsay have a little wrestle and I stepped onto the road, from there the video cuts out. The next thing I remember I was on the ground. The girls said that I ran at the car and jumped into the windscreen 'body-slam style'. I doubt that very much, I would never purposely jump onto a moving car for no reason, I doubt anyone would. The girls said that they were not moving, but the security guard who was patrolling that area, told the court otherwise. Though he said he didn't see what happened, he heard the tyres of the car skidding. I remember the girls getting out of the car and start yelling at me, I told them it was not my fault, but they insisted It was. They were screaming abuse at me and I remember looking at Swany, (Dane Swan) and he didn't want any part of it for obvious reasons. So we just simply ran off because we didn't want any dramas. However looking back on it now I take full responsibility for what happened with the car.
I should not have been messing around near the road whilst under in influence of alcohol. And obviously I should have stayed and waited for the police to sort it out. The situation only got worse from that point on.
The Speccy: The Herald-Sun reported that you "initiated the fight, beating up a cleaner and three security guards with the help of his two mates." It also reported that the "court was told Carey resisted attempts to arrest him, punching a police officer in the face before being subdued by capsicum spray." The Age also reported that a witness "told police that two of the men had stopped attacking the security guards but the third had continued kicking a guard until the police arrived." I think there was one bouncer and one cleaner hospitalised. During sentencing, the judge acknowledged that you were "provoked", while Swan and Ramsay joined the fight to help defend you.
Did you dispute (substantially) this version of events in court? Did you plead guilty to the charges? What was the nature of this "provocation" the judge referred to?
Kade Carey: What happened next was, we were running along the river. Dane was way out in front of myself and Aaron. I was about 20 metres in front of Aaron and he yelled out to me to wait up for him. I stopped and walked for a bit to wait for him. When he caught up we just kept walking. All of a sudden we heard people running and yelling at us to stop. There were from memory five security guys, or bouncers, as they are known. And one other man who I was told after the incident was a cleaner. And the girls following them. At this stage Dane was about 200 metres ahead of us. I remember thinking we are so out numbered by these guys, we are going to get bashed. All the bouncers surrounded me and I felt threatened. I told them to leave us alone. It has nothing to do with them, because we were not in Fed square. I told them to piss off and get out of my way. They said they were not going to let me leave, they then all walked in towards me. (This was all on camera.) I reached out and pushed one of the bouncers. That is when they all attacked me and got me to the ground. Dane must have seen it from where he was standing, and came running back to help me. I remember covering my head up when I was on the ground. I looked up and seen Aaron tackle the bouncers off me. I got to my feet and just started fighting, anyway I knew how. I remember being hit pretty hard with something, but I was that fired up I just kept fighting. When we got the video of the fight, it turned out I had been hit in the head by a mag light. Which is a big police torch, by the cleaner. Which he admitted in court. The three of us ended up getting the better of them. Dane and Aaron started running I didn't see them leave. The police turned up and I took off. One of the officers tried to tackle me. I never punched the officer, just tried to break the tackle. That's when I was arrested.
Unfortunately for us it was a committal hearing so we didn't get to tell our story. From the witnesses evidence we were ordered to stand trial, surprise surprise. We had it on good advice that we had a very strong case. However to this point already I had spent $20,000 in legal fees, and was told that it would go close to costing us another $40,000 each. This put myself and my father under a lot of stain. So I had to plead guilty for financial reasons. It should also be noted that the chargers of assault by kicking [and] assaulting police were dropped. We all pleaded guilty to affray, and I pleaded guilty to criminal damage, for the car.
I suffered a burst eardrum and two black eyes. Aaron had a massive cut under his eye. In hindsight we should have charged them. We were told we may be charged, but we thought it would blow over because they were fighting just as hard as us. We were not charged till one year later.
The Speccy: You mentioned your Dad helping you out. Over the couple of years it took the affair to play out, what sort of support (emotional, financial or otherwise) did you get from your club, mates, employer and family?
Kade Carey: The support I got from everyone around me was awesome. My employer was fantastic, he was happy to give me the time off that I needed and actually came to court to support me. My family were great and my girlfriend's family were just as understanding. I think this was because I am very close to my friends and family and they knew that this situation was out of character and was something that should not have happened. Without my father looking after me financially I wouldn't have got through it. People think cause my last name is Carey, that I'm well off. I assure you I'm not. As you can probably tell this has not only impacted me but also the people around me and forced me to put my plans on hold. Even now I'm still paying for it.
The Speccy: You didn't mention your club. AFL players have no problems accessing lawyers, advisers and publicists when these things happen. Does this support extend to footballers on the VFL list too? If I recall correctly, you and Aaron Ramsay were playing the VFL at the time while Dane Swan was in the AFL. Do you think this off-field incident impacted on your on-field selection and advancement?
Kade Carey: Not at all for myself and Aaron. It was the off-season and had no impact on us. But we both felt for Dane he was copping it from all his peers, but he took it all in his stride and didn't let it bother him.
The Speccy: You mentioned getting "bad media" before. What sort of coverage did the incident itself get? (ie just newspapers, or radio and TV news and current affairs too?) What about the court cases? Did you do any interviews or put out any statements or otherwise try to influence what went on?
Kade Carey: The incident was reported in all the papers, on the news, and on the radio, and for obvious reasons it was all bad. No, we didn't do any statements or interviews, although I wanted too. My lawyer told me not to worry about it. So I have until I come across your blog page. Just seeing what everybody has wrote about us, without knowing what really happened makes me mad.
The Speccy: Obviously it was going to be a news story. What surprised you about the coverage? Were your friends, family or employer worried about the negative media? Did the "Carey" factor play a big role?
Kade Carey: Everybody who knows me was worried about the negative coverage. I was portrayed as a thug and that is not true. Obviously I wouldn't have even been mentioned if it wasn't for my last name. It surprised me that it did get a bit of coverage, but in saying that the media these days are just waiting or even praying for a footballer to get in trouble. I would hate to be an AFL player at the moment, the way it is now the guys have no lives.
The Speccy: The papers referred to some convictions prior to this incident, suggesting it was for violence too. Have you kept out of trouble since the suspended sentence? Is it still hanging over you? Is being out of the top-tier of footy making it easier to stay out of trouble?
Kade Carey: My prior conviction was also for assault, it was a very minor incident that happened in Wagga when I was 17. I actually didn't even throw a punch but was convicted because I was a part of an affray. Yes, I've kept out of trouble since the suspended sentence. I will never put myself in that situation again. The sentence finished in August last year, but if you ask me it will be with me for the rest of my life. Apart from this incident I've never really been in any trouble and don't plan to be, regardless of what level of football I'm playing.
The Speccy: Earlier, you said you think that the media scrutiny means AFL players "don't have a life". In light of their large (and rapidly increasing) salaries, the media work in the spotlight, being kids' role model etc, what do you think is an appropriate level of scrutiny? What "life" would footballers have without the scrutiny (ie what would they do differently)? You also indicated that you don't believe your incident would have made the papers if it wasn't for your surname. What do you think the media would have done with the story if you'd had a different surname?
Kade Carey: One thing I cannot stand is people shooting down elite sportsmen or women about there salaries. To me that just sounds like jealousy. They have worked hard and are obviously good at what they do, so good on them. I'm sure we all wish that we could do the same. A lot of the time footballers are not to blame. It's the dickheads in the bars having a go at a Chris Tarrant, just because he's Chris Tarrant and they support Carlton. Then they taunt him by saying something about his girlfriend. Put yourself in that situation. Happens every weekend. If anything was to come of it Chris would be blamed for it. Firstly by the media, then the public. AFL players can't enjoy there lives socially as well as everybody else, which is disappointing. I don't know one footballer or even heard of a footballer that goes out looking for trouble. If I had a different surname I'm sure the media would have pinned the blame on Dane.
The Speccy: Looking back on the incident and its aftermath, what advice would you give yourself, especially dealing with the ongoing legal and media situation? What surprised you about how people reacted? How would your life be different now if you hadn't jumped on that car?
Kade Carey: The advice that I would give myself would be, think before you act. That would be the main thing. I have learned a lot from this dilemma. I never said that I jumped on the car, but if it all never happened - who knows. I'd like to think that I would have purchased a home somewhere, and maybe have had another crack at making the AFL. I know one thing for sure, I wouldn't be sitting here having to explain myself to you.
The Speccy: On The Speccy, I've painted an unflattering picture of you as a dangerous violent thug. I've also criticised the legal system for being too soft on you. Both of these points feed into a bigger theme that our community tolerates off-field bad behaviour from footballers because of their on-field talents, and that we'd all be better off if they were held to a higher standard. How would you respond to the specifics of your behaviour? What about the more general pattern of people being too quick to excuse if someone is good at footy? Do you think the average AFL player is happier and better off now than in the 80s, when most players had jobs?
Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the incident, the aftermath or this website?
Kade Carey: The game has changed a lot since the 80s; it is extremely demanding these days. Some clubs train up to three times a day, four days a week. But there are still a lot of players that do have part time jobs. Some even find the time to run there own businesses, or do apprenticeships, to set themselves up for life after football. I don't know about being happier I'm sure the boys would love to only train a couple of times a week. What I find strange is when I [did] my community service I met some interesting people, real criminals! I met one young man who had just held up a service station with a knife. He told me it wasn't his first time. He had 50 less hours than I had and no fine or suspended sentence. Work that one out? I asked around and found out everyone's stories, what they had done in there past, and why they were doing community service. Most of them were drug dealers 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time offenders. Most of them had less hours than me. I told them what I was sentenced to and they all laughed and said that I got punished hard. None of them knew my last name. Everybody should be held to the same standard, regardless of who they are or what they do.
What surprised me most about the interview was the absence of open hostility towards me, this publication or even the articles I wrote. I'm sure Carey's not happy about it and there's more than a few digs in that direction, but credit where it's due: no threats and insults and a measured - even reflective - tone throughout. (That said, I've left instructions with my solicitor should I suddenly disappear one day soon.)
I was also interested in the financial impact and what that meant for his work and family. In this, I expect Carey's case differs from most the high-profile court appearances we cover here. Thirty grand in legal fees is a lot for a glazier, but a mere piffle for a professional footballer earning on average $250K a year.
However, it seems to me that Carey is downplaying the impact of his actions on his victims. Sentences like "I got to my feet and just started fighting, anyway I knew how." (translation: "I kicked people in the head while they were on the ground") and "The three of us ended up getting the better of them" (translation: "We bashed people so hard they ended up in hospital") betray a certain lack of empathy. And Carey's assertion that the only reason it made the papers is his surname also shows a lack of understanding about how the community views violent brawls in public spaces. His experiences while on community service also show up some warped values. Dealing drugs versus going on a rampage that hospitalises people with "serious injuries, including eye socket, nose and wrist fractures"? Come on. Let's get some perspective.
I find the notion of someone defending AFL in-pub thuggishness by bringing up the example of Chris Tarrant perplexing. I mean, this guy is a pin-up boy for AFL thugs! Whether he's playing for Collingwood (involved in vicious car park assault) or Fremantle (obnoxious arse-baring followed by head-punching), the man is clearly out-of-control and a problem for what remains of the game's reputation. Even hardened AFL apologists are embarrassed by him. Why anyone would bring up his example just seems nuts to me.
Lastly, Carey's views on AFL players with their part-time jobs, apprenticeships, businesses and higher education just seems to be two decades out of date. These days, it's sponsorship deals, "Playstation Syndrome", hanging out at the salon and wasted educational opportunities. The reality is that AFL players are getting treated better than ever with skyrocketing incomes and celebrity hero-worship to boot. Sure, a lot of footballers would love to keep the money and drop the scrutiny, especially if it means getting away with taking more drugs more often. But that ain't gonna happen.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about this whole fiasco is that Carey has paid a price for his "moment of madness" and subsequent violence. Is it just? I don't know, but I'm sure he's had plenty of chances to ponder his actions as a result of the court case. Let's hope that his tale serves as an effective warning to others following on the same path.
As part of the interview process, The Speccy offered Carey the right of reply to this article. He initially accepted this but, for reasons best known to himself, has chosen not to follow through. Perhaps it's related to a Carey family media blackout, arising from Uncle Wayne's ongoing personal, legal and publicity problems. However, like everyone else, he is welcome to comment.
Another chapter has closed on this long-running saga, with one of the victim's of the three footballers settling with them in his civil suit:
Former cleaner Claudio Celano had sought at least $200,000 in damages from [Magpie Dane] Swan, Kade Carey and Aaron Ramsay after he was injured in a fight at Federation Square in December 2003.
The parties agreed to a settlement yesterday in the County Court, removing the need for a retrial. The terms of the settlement were kept confidential. (The Age, 2/9/2009)
From the above interview, I doubt Celano would have gotten much from Kade Carey. Dane Swan, on the other hand, must be worth a few bob ...
Word Count: 4123