By Nicholas Galea
Resilience and inspiration are two very powerful words and they would certainly be words that perfectly fit the description and personality of Peter McEvoy who has showed immense character and strength to overcome countless setbacks that have come his way to get to where he is today.
The youngest of four siblings, McEvoy grew up in a small town in north-east Victoria called Dederang, which is just at the foothills of Mount Hotham.
School was something that came natural to the very eloquent McEvoy as he attended high school in Wodonga where he was a very driven student but sport was something that was always close to his heart.
Although a sports fanatic, much of McEvoy’s teenage years were injury riddled as he suffered from a serious but rare knee injury called osteochondritis dissecans, which affected his femur and tibia.
After not making the local Under 18s team, McEvoy joined his oldest brother in the Essendon District Football League at East Keilor for a season before heading back to the Victorian border to play for the Wodonga Raiders in his final year of school, where he won the club best and fairest in the Under 18s.
After successfully finishing his VCE in 2010, McEvoy made the move to the Apple Isle after receiving a scholarship into the University of Tasmania, to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Honours. Whilst studying McEvoy also played reserves football for North Hobart in the Tasmanian Football League.
Unfortunately, in the first year of his degree McEvoy was hit with another setback and the biggest challenge he has faced in his life but it has shape him into the person he is today.
‘I had a pretty serious bushwalking accident where I fell eight or nine metres and landed on my head,’ he said.
‘I broke my skull pretty badly, had a pretty serious brain bleed, broke my shoulder blade, damaged my lungs and a few other bits and pieces.’
‘My oldest brother and dad rescued me and carried me home through the thick bush for a few hours… They flew me to the Alfred Hospital and the doctors operated as soon as possible to release all the pressure on my brain from the brain bleed.’
McEvoy returned to his studies within a month to salvage what he could from his first year of university but further complications occurred shortly afterwards as he suffered a serious infection following an operation to remove his appendix and on going residual spinal cord inflammation. This would see him spend another month in hospital.
‘I was pretty sick, had really dangerous temperature and fever from the infection,’ he said.
‘All the doctors and nurses managing me were pretty worried, they almost had to do another operation to remove part of my intestine and bowel, which may have limited things in the future for me.’
‘At the same time, I also had a lot of really serious residual spinal cord inflammation from my bushwalking accident and brain injury.’
‘I was seeing the head neurosurgeon in Tasmania and they were pretty worried and didn’t quite understand why I was getting pins and needles through my whole body, through my stomach, through my groins and through my arms.’
With his immediate sporting career in doubt, McEvoy took another two more years off footy before he once again returned to play, this time for the University of Tasmania in the Old Scholars Football Association where he kicked 65 goals in 31 games.
‘The accident certainly shaped me as a person and who I’ve become today with my attitude towards life and living every moment like it might be your last,’ he said.
‘I’m always making time for family and friends, no matter the occasion or how much stress you might be under with work and other things.’
‘From a footy point of view, I’m just playing as hard and as tough as I possibly can, never leave anything behind and being as disciplined and hardworking.’
‘I’m thankful for the fact that I’m still here.’
After successfully recovering from his injury and completing his degree in 2013, McEvoy was given some encouraging words from his brother Ben to have a crack playing Aussie Rules in the Victorian Football League. McEvoy trialled out for Hawthorn’s VFL affiliate in the Box Hill Hawks over the summer of 2013 and was successful in making the Development Team list.
Playing at Box Hill allowed for one of the highlights of McEvoy’s life as he would ironically be playing alongside his brother Ben in his VFL debut later that year against Port Melbourne in the qualifying final.
‘He was working his way back into the Hawks team through injury and a team that was at the top of its game, they’d won the premiership the year before and we played together in a qualifying final, which was my VFL debut, so that was pretty special,’ McEvoy said.
‘He absolutely dominated which didn’t surprise me, I thought for my first game I played pretty well and kicked a couple of goals; we were the only multiple goal kickers for the day.’
Unfortunately, the nature of AFL/VFL alignments saw McEvoy make way for a returning AFL listed player and he returned to the Development League team where he played in the Grand Final defeat against Williamstown.
On an individual perspective, McEvoy had a fantastic 2014 season which saw him kick 56 goals in 16 games and was awarded the A. Todd Medal (VFL Development League Best and Fairest) alongside Port Melbourne’s Joshua Muling.
Even with this achievement, McEvoy opportunities of playing senior VFL football at Box Hill on a regular basis was always going to be determined by Hawthorn’s player availability and it saw him play just a further six matches in the senior side.
To make matters more difficult for McEvoy, he was frequently battling issues with injuries.
‘By the end of 2015 I knew that my time was done at Box Hill,’ he said.
‘I really wanted to just have a clear opportunity to play senior VFL footy and that was always going to be tough at Box Hill because of the nature of the Hawks alignment.’
‘I had a meeting with Peter German, the coach of Coburg at the time and there was a real opportunity for me to come in as an extra key forward.’
After an encouraging start at his new club, McEvoy would again encounter another setback, this time in the shape of a broken leg and it seemed his luck would mirror Coburg’s fortunes over the following three seasons as it transitioned into a really young list building for the future.
Alongside fellow co-captain Ryan Exon and the leadership group, McEvoy has helped guide many of the club’s younger players through this tough phase and have helped create a positive environment and culture that will hopefully see the club return to its former days of glory.
This shift in culture has seen the club over the past two seasons recruit several high calibre players like Jacob Ballard, Tom Silvestro, Corey Ellis, Jack Maibaum, Nathan Mullenger McHugh and Tom Mckenzie to name a few and brought about renewed optimism about the club’s prospects going forward.
‘I think we’ve really added in that experience and also a high-level skill to complement what we already had, so we’re really obviously excited, it’s been very much a five-year journey I think from my perspective from where we started to where we are now,’ McEvoy said.
‘There were patches in 2019 where we were so competitive and were so good in many games but we just fell short through probably a lack of experience and just an extra 10 or 20 games in a lot of players.’
‘Now there’s that real hunger and desire from the group we’ve done so much hard work, especially that core senior group of us who have been here for a long time.’
‘I just love what we’ve been able to build at the club and what things are looking like for this year, it fills me with excitement, and I hope that we can live up to the expectation and the patience of our members and close supporters.’
‘Even families and friends who have been to watch a lot of tough years of footy who are now ready to see us win games of footy and win them well.’
Leadership is something not everyone is comfortable with but it is something McEvoy has taken in his stride as he understands the magnitude of being co-captain of a football club (since 2018) that is celebrating its 130th year in existence.
‘Having the trust and the belief of your teammates that the version of yourself that you carry in your, in your daily life is worthy of the accolade of being a captain is pretty humbling so I cherish every moment of it and do everything I possibly can to lead by example and support my teammates.’
‘For me a lot of my leadership has always been built around making a really inclusive and welcoming environment, making sure that everyone is safe, included and enjoying themselves, but also being super professional and disciplined.’
‘That’s always been my philosophy and my mantra to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible and to pull everyone up to the highest standard that I possibly can… To keep pushing and asking for more wherever it’s possible.’
Outside of football McEvoy works at Fairbanks Seeds as product development agronomist, which sees him drive around many parts of Victoria, South Australian and New South Wales running trials with farmers.
McEvoy has been working with the company since completing his degree in 2013.
‘It’s a fantastic company to work for… We sell vegetable seed to farmers in Australia and New Zealand,’ he said.
‘A lot of my job is running trials with farmers for kinds of new and improved vegetable varieties.’
‘Whether it’s a broccoli variety or a version of lettuce or a pumpkin, we’re just trying to see if we can add an advantage, it might be a yield advantage, shelf life, the flavour or a combination of all the above, I do a lot of product development in the vegetable space.’
Sport has clearly played a large part in McEvoy’s life which includes a newfound hobby of mount bike riding, but there is a lot more to him than just sport as he strongly values the connection of family and friends.
‘A recent hobby of mine has been mountain bike riding, I quite enjoy that and I’ve got myself a nice new dual suspension mountain bike,’ he said.
‘I hit a few trails whenever I can and it compliments footy quite well obviously with the leg strength and things that you get from that and as long as you don’t fall off and hurt yourself it’s okay.’
‘I love playing cards and board games but above all else spending time with people and friends is probably my number one hobby… I’m a very sociable person, I really like to be around family and friends.’
After tying the knot last year on January 11 2020 with his wife Tess, the McEvoy’s are set to become parents for the first time as they expecting to welcome their first born on the eighth of July.
‘We’re 27 weeks in now and Tess is a superstar and she’s doing really well…. She’s still working full time as a surgeon and she’s an inspiration for sure for me individually.’
After seeing out the clubs rebuild over the past few years McEvoy just can’t wait to bring success back to Piranha Park in the coming seasons and give its loyal fan base something to celebrate.
‘All the coaches, staff members and board members have done a brilliant job in getting us in the position that we are as a club.’
‘I think it’s time we started repaying the faith that the club has done by allowing us to be here.’
‘We’re all excited to try and bring some reward for all the effort and more challenging years that we’ve gone through so bring on some success in 2021.’