Jason McCartney

Quick Facts

  • Name: Jason McCartney
  • Born: 14 March 1974, in Nhill, Victoria
  • Victim of Bali Bombing on October 12, 2002, in which he was badly injured
  • AFL footballer – Collingwood, Adelaide, North Melbourne (The Kangaroos)
  • Key position: forward and backman
  • Played 182 games


When Jason McCartney's father saw his son, following the AFL star's return to Australia in the immediate aftermath of the Bali Bombings in 2002, he 'couldn’t even recognise him'. The North Melbourne (Kangaroo’s) forward had sustained such massive burns to his legs, arms and hands in the bombings that he was lucky to be alive. McCartney had received burns to nearly fifty per cent of his body. There was a shrapnel wound to his back, and the only part of him not burnt was the front of his shoulders and chest. Yet, he waved others onto flights bound for hospitals, believing they were in more need than he was.

Less than a year later, McCartney would be on the field again, to play what would be both his comeback match and his final game of AFL football. His determination, and the sacrifices he made for his fellow bombing victims, established him as a national hero.

McCartney began his AFL career with Collingwood in 1991 for whom he played 38 games and kicked 28 goals. In 1995, he moved to Adelaide and played 37 games in the three seasons he was there. In 1998, he transferred to North Melbourne and played 106 games with the Kangaroos before heading off on the fateful end-of-season trip to Bali.

The Bali Bombings had coincided with the end-of-season trips for many Australian football clubs, across codes and at all levels, and so had a disproportionate impact on the lives and families of footballers. The Kingsley Australian Rules Football Club in Western Australia lost seven members of their 2002 team, while the Forbes Rugby Union Club in rural New South Wales lost three team members. The accounts of courage and desperation of their surviving players in the period after the bombings became an enduring image of the human suffering exacted by the tragedy.

McCartney's comeback match, against Richmond in the 2003 AFL season, was the culmination of eight months of rehabilitation, a process which was inspired by his determination to again take to the field for the Kangaroos in elite competition. When Jason McCartney took to the field in a fully protective body suit under his football jumper, his determination to play again became symbolic of the suffering and recovery of all of those affected by the bombings. It also held a special and immediate significance for the Australian Football fraternity. The match was attended by many of the survivors of the bombings, and the Kangaroos wore jumpers commemorating the 202 victims of the bombing and the 88 Australians who lost their lives.

Jason McCartney's actions during the immediate aftermath of the bombings, and his triumphant recovery from horrific injury, epitomised the human spirit, and is a fitting and lasting counter to those who would seek to diminish and demean it. In addition to being a sought-after public speaker since his retirement from football, Jason McCartney is also an AFL Youth Co-ordinator, a role in which he inspires young, up-and-coming footballers to overcome some of the obstacles in their lives in order to reach their potential – no doubt with his message: 'It’s not what you’re dealt in life, it’s how you deal with it'.



  • After Bali by Jason McCartney, Lothian Books (2003)