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Sunday Age

Frankston first-gamer an inspiration

Author: Kenneth Nguyen
Date: 07/05/2006
Words: 575
Source: SAG
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Sport
Page: 5
He may have lost a forearm, but Frankston youngster Sam Carpenter goes hard, writes Kenneth Nguyen

IT IS not the habit of footy supporters to be effusive about the prospects of opposition debutants, but Geelong fans made an exception for Frankston's No. 37 at Skilled Stadium yesterday.

"Keep an eye on that Sam Carpenter," one fan said before the game. "It's amazing what he can do with just one arm."

Indeed, it is. The astounding football career of Carpenter - who lost his left forearm after an accident at his parents' Tyabb butcher's shop 16 years ago - took another step yesterday when the 19-year-old played his first game at senior VFL level.

The call-up follows his fine start this season in the VFL reserves, including a four-goal haul against Sandringham last week.

"With his three games in the reserves so far, he's just been knocking on the door, saying 'pick me' every week . . . and that's exactly what's happened," Frankston Football Club president Jay McGrath said.

"He tackles harder than most players, his chest marking in a contest is as good as any; his ability to get to the contest is fantastic. There are very few limitations on him at all."

Naturally, there was no special treatment for the young rover, who admitted to feeling some nerves "but mostly excitement" before the game. As he lined up in the centre square for the opening siren, he received a little push and shove from his Geelong counterpart; not victimisation, but a reminder that there's no room for charity in VFL football.

Not that he needed charity. Carpenter spent about 80 minutes on the field, picking up about a dozen touches, laying some fierce tackles and demonstrating what, in any other circumstances, would be described as quick, clean hands. Only in an overhead marking contest did he seem affected by his lost forearm.

There were certainly no visible signs of intimidation, even as he faced up to opponents of the calibre of Nathan Ablett and Tom Harley. He survived a physical clash with the latter, who enjoyed an 18-kilogram weight advantage over him. "Yeah, I got cleaned up by one of the big blokes - I might have got a bit of a fat lip," Carpenter said after the match, with a wry smile. "It's all part of football."

Unfortunately for him, Carpenter and his fellow Frankston players couldn't come away with a dream win, falling to the Cats by six points, 11.7 (73) to 9.13 (67), after leading at three-quarter time. "Our first half didn't help. We tried to get ourselves back into the game, but just couldn't quite get over the line."

Still, Carpenter's efforts continued a tale that has inspired many. His father Leigh tells of one mother who took her young daughter with one arm to see Carpenter's first TAC Cup match, or a similarly disabled boy taken by his parents all the way from Western Australia to Dandenong, specifically to see Carpenter play.

Leigh expressed his pride yesterday. "It does hit home when you see him up against all these AFL-listed players. A lot of people have been touched by what he achieves, and he understands that, that he is a bit of a role model.

"We're proud of him because he's a good kid . . . everything he does, he does to the best of his ability. The fact that he's managed to play VFL football - it doesn't make us any prouder. It's the fact that he does the best that he can."

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