Carlton defender awarded most valuable player for fundraising impact

Posted on 26 Sep 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

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Sam Docherty on stage at the 2023 Brownlow Medal count. Picture: AFL Photos.

Carlton may have fallen short in their fairytale bid for a Grand Final berth against archrivals Collingwood, but one of the AFL club’s favourite sons has been recognised for his outstanding community work.

Much loved Blues defender Sam ‘Doc’ Docherty has been named winner of the 2023 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award.

The honour, which was announced at this week’s Brownlow Medal count, was bestowed on Docherty for his tireless advocacy and fundraising impact relating to cancer.

The former Blues co-captain has been a beacon of hope to those in the community battling illness, after recovering twice from testicular cancer.

Named in honour of former Melbourne Football Club great Jim Stynes, who lost his battle with cancer in 2012, the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award has become an important annual recognition of philanthropic achievements within the AFL community.

The judges of this year’s award highlighted Docherty’s inspirational story and his commitment to raising awareness and vital funds for cancer research, as well as his ambassador role at Paws4Kids.

The children’s charity, operated by MacKillop Family Services, helps children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect or other childhood trauma to succeed at school by pairing them with trained therapy dogs.

Docherty’s charitable achievements include:

  • using his position as a high-profile AFL player to encourage more people in the community to book a medical checkup with their doctor
  • joining fellow cancer survivor Ben Cunnington, a North Melbourne player, to create the Good Friday Superclash match between the Blues and the Kangaroos, which raised more than $200,000 for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal.

Docherty is now a voluntary observer on the board of the Peter Mac Cancer Foundation and is an ambassador for the annual Peter Mac Cup between Carlton and Collingwood, a game which has become the longest-running charity match in the AFL.

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Sam Docherty accepts his award from Jim Stynes son, Tiernan. Picture: AFL Photos.
“It’s [cancer] been part of my journey and to be able to come out the other end and find a real purpose with what I do with my life outside of footy, it’s pretty incredible to be honest.”
Blues defender Sam Docherty.

Outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said Docherty epitomised the essence of the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award.

“Sam should be incredibly proud of this achievement, and I’d like to congratulate him on the tremendous support and advocacy he’s provided for patients, families and everyone in the community who has been impacted by cancer,” said Mr McLachlan.

“The way Sam has been able to use his own personal experience to give hope, inspiration and raise an enormous amount of funds for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation and other charities is a testament to his character.”

Carlton CEO Brian Cook praised Docherty for his passion for helping others.

“Sam is such a selfless and generous person who gives everything to everyone,” said Mr Cook.

“The way he plays the game is a true reflection of his character – courageous with spirit and heart – and this shines through off the field too.”

Accepting his award on stage at Monday night’s Brownlow Medal count, Docherty, who will receive $40,000 to be donated to the charity or community program of his choice, said he felt humbled.

“To have an award named after Jim [Stynes] and to have my name associated with that is pretty incredible,” he said.

“It’s [cancer] been part of my journey and to be able to come out the other end and find a real purpose with what I do with my life outside of footy, it’s pretty incredible to be honest.”

Past winners of the award include Geelong champion Joel Selwood, Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak and legendary Richmond Tigers defender Bachar Houli.

Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award finalists Bailey Banfield from Fremantle, Ben Brown from Melbourne and Harry Cunningham from Sydney were also commended for their significant contribution to the community and their nominated charities.

The Jim Stynes Foundation continues the work of the late Jim Stynes, who passionately believed in nurturing the leadership qualities of young Australians and empowering them to become agents of change in their communities.

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