I saw red

During a Cats home game towards the end of the 2001 season, I made a bold prediction that had the half dozen or so mates I was with laughing derisively.

“Cameron Ling will captain the Cats one day.”

I’m not sure whether they couldn’t see past his red hair, or his “only a mother could love” face, or the fact that he looked so slow and ungainly. It was clear for all to see that as far as presentation went, he was an unlikely candidate for “footballer” let alone an elite one, and his prospects for becoming captain were nil according to my mates.

What I saw was the ultimate competitor. He was drafted in 1999 as a mid-sized forward and in just his second season, had transformed himself into a running machine who had successfully “tagged” some of the best midfielders in the competition. The one game I specifically remember which won me over completely was in Round 16 of 2001 against West Coast in Perth when he significantly reduced the effectiveness an in-form Ben Cousins while kicking three goals himself. It was inspiring stuff and helped the Cats to an unlikely 70 point win. It also proved that Lingy would do whatever it took to play AFL football.

The conclusive evidence to me though was an article I’d read about Lingy which my mates must not have.

Lingy was captain of his Under-15s side, was captain of the St. Joey’s school team, was captain of the Geelong Falcons and was captain of the Under-18s AFL representative side that toured Ireland in 1999. And at the age of 20, and in only his second year at an AFL club, he was instructing older players, supporting younger players, and was recognised as one of the hardest and most committed on the training track.

A well known topic of debate for centuries has been, “Are leaders born or made?”

In Cameron Ling’s case, the answer is obvious.


  1. The pedigree of the Cats Alumni will be pretty impressive in a few years Peter.

  2. Yes Phantom. Maybe a line of coaches like that produced by the Hawks or Bombers from their 80s eras.

  3. Clearsighted says

    You’re spot on regarding Lingy, Pete.
    During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Geelong beat Collingwood, who were Grand Finalists in both years, and Ling played on Buckley on each occasion (one of which, incurred the famous “rubbing of the blood” incident).
    Heart is the greatest contributor in footy, along with skill and a tough-but-fair attitude. Your article inspired thoughts of Paul Couch (too slow, too left footed, too Brownlow) and the wonderful Lenny Hayes (who was sorely missed by the Sainters this season).
    There are players of this ilk in every club, bless ’em all, but none could be more loved than that wondrous blood nut.

  4. Pete

    This is a homage I like (refer to previous Milburn comment).

    I loved Lingy’s performance in the Grand Final, particularly his goal in the last quarter. Not many people know this, but Ling played that quarter under a fair bit of duress. After they turned the lights on at the ‘G he had to apply four coats of SPF 45+.

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