THE STORY so far. 

The tale of Sam Docherty's life has been oft-told. But rarely - if ever - has the man himself spoken at length about everything from start to finish.

That was until he joined his great mate - and former Carlton teammate - Daniel Gorringe on the Dan Does Footy podcast. 

The below grabs, in consequential order, are just a taste of what the beloved Blue had to say about his journey. Starting out in Phillip Island, Docherty speaks on his earliest football memories, his draft year and his move to his boyhood club before everything that unfolded once that trade materialised.

His father Eddie suddenly passing while he was on his first pre-season camp with Carlton shaped the footballer Docherty has become, and his two bouts of knee surgery and then testicular cancer has largely influenced Docherty the person. 

For the full insight on just how much, you can watch the full episode here, or you can listen wherever you get your podcasts.

16:40 — “I was very fortunate as a kid. My mum and dad provided a great environment for myself and my brother: looking back now, they taught us a lot of habits that have been really healthy. My parents gave me and Josh everything we needed. We didn’t come from the wealthiest family, where Mum worked full-time and Dad worked two jobs. Looking back now and becoming a parent, I probably realise how great of a job they did. It doesn’t guarantee you successes in life, but they definitely set me on my journey.”

19:15 — “Thinking back now, we used to leave school early to go to the Richmond versus Carlton game — young kids with a bunch of the dads. They were great memories, we didn’t go to too many games being from Phillip Island, it’s a fair trek away. There were a lot of Richmond supporters and a lot of Carlton supporters in my Dad’s friendship group, so we used to roll up there on the mini bus, go to the game, watch the game and go home.”

20:20 — “Josh and I basically grew up at the footy club. My dad coached nearly every age group possible, my mum was a committee member at stages. We were spending three or four nights a week there, one year my dad was coaching my team in the under-15s and the reserves, coaching two teams in one day. We spent a hell of a lot of time there growing up: when Dad was coaching the under-18s, I was about 10 and training with them.”

21:17 — “One of my favourite footy memories is the first senior game I played with my brother. Looking back now, it’s pretty special to me. I got to play a period of time with him. Growing up, I didn’t think I’d be playing AFL footy, so I just thought I’d be playing senior footy at Phillip Island with me and him. I was lucky I played really young and he was playing at the same time, we got to play for a few years before I played my career elsewhere.” 

23:50 — “In juniors, I was never the best kid in the team, even through playing under-15s and 16s carnivals for Gippsland Power, I was never in the A-team. When I got to the under-18s, I got injured in my bottom-age year in tryouts, so didn’t get picked for the squad. That next year was a whirlwind: I went from not being on any draft boards anywhere to playing half the year, trying out for Vic Country, getting cut from Vic Country, then I was lucky that Vic Country played poorly and I was playing well in the TAC Cup. 

“My opportunity came when we were playing Western Australia in Geelong, I played really well and I went from nowhere to probably going to get drafted, then I played the next game against Metro where I played well and I went to a potential first-rounder. Even in the last mock drafts, I was around 18-20, then the day before it was me going to Richmond at pick No.15, then I went at No.12 to Brisbane. The lesson for anyone that wants to be an AFL player is everyone’s journey is different: you don’t have to make every team, you’ve just got to take every opportunity when you get one.”

32:00 — “‘Vossy’ coached me in my first year and a half. You learn the most when you fail. He’s an unbelievable coach now, and I’ve seen a fair few coaches in my time in footy. You need to know who you are, and he definitely has that, but his ability to speak to the players but also the coaches and empower them is pretty amazing. He’s different now, but I was also 18 years old, so I didn’t know what I was looking at. I was walking past him in the corridor shit-scared to talk to him, he’s a legend of AFL footy. Is that different to now, or have I just grown up? There’s probably elements of both . . . he came into a group that was ready to have him as a coach.”

36:55 — “I had no intentions of ever leaving when I first got to Brissy. My first two years didn’t go the way I wanted them to . . . there’s always the lure of going back when things aren’t going your way, and there was a lot happening at the [Lions] with board overthrow murmurings, ‘Vossy’ got sacked with six games to go and there were a lot of clubs saying to come home. In the end, the decision that I thought that was best for my career was to come back to Melbourne, and Carlton ended up being the team that I chose after I was lucky enough to speak to a number of teams. Carlton was the standout for me of where I thought I could play a long AFL career. I’ve definitely been able to do that, although very interrupted.”

40:20 — “Although it’s been bloody hard, I take a fair bit of joy out of getting to Carlton on the decline, then we were in the pit, but now we’ve come out the other side. ‘Crippa’ and I have been on the journey together, we’re the only two left after Ed retired last year. To feel like you’ve built something, hopefully we can win a flag at the back end of my career. I’ve now got to a position where if we don’t get there, I’ll be okay with that, which is the perspective I’ve gained in my career: if you asked me that 5-6 six years ago, I would’ve been 100 per cent shattered. 

“Don’t get me wrong, I want to win a flag. But I don’t think my career is going to be defined by that, which I think is a healthier mindset. I’m still trying to win a flag, that drives me considerably! I’m a big believer that your journey is meant to teach you things in life, and coming to Carlton and going through what we’ve gone through has taught me the bigger values I have in my life. Footy’s not everything to me anymore, and it was at one point — probably to an unhealthy level.”

44:20 — “My Flagstaff experience was horrible. I’d been traded, met my teammates for a week and a half in mid-November before going to this camp. I was injured at the time and had an immune disease in my eye that I was trying to figure out what that was. About a week and a half in, my brother started calling me a couple of times, which I thought was weird. I got a tap on the shoulder from Shane O . . . it was Nat on the phone, and she said that Josh had rung Nat to get in contact with me. My dad had just passed away. Part of the phone call was that my mum was at my aunty’s house doing a move, and my brother couldn’t get hold of my mum and didn’t have my aunty’s number. 

“I called my aunty from Arizona to get Mum on the phone, and I had to tell Mum that Dad had passed away. There’s one thing losing a parent, it’s another losing a parent when you’re on the other side of the world with a bunch of people you just met. I was very lucky that the footy club was unbelievable and they sent someone back with me to make sure I got home. It was an incredibly tough part of my life.”

51:00 — “My purpose of playing footy was - and still is - continuing my dad’s legacy. My dad was a massive Carlton fan, a massive footy fan and a massive influence on me, and I feel like I carry him with me in my career. Part of every achievement I gain as an AFL player etches my last name in the Carlton history books, and part of the reason I play footy - and part of the reason I’ve got through all the shit I’ve been through - is because in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking of what he would do. 

“You don’t go out looking for a best and fairest or any of those awards, but if they come up, that’s in the books and it can’t be unwritten. My name will always be next to that 2016 year [John Nicholls Medal], and that’s inevitably my dad’s last name. We do a lot of work on why we do what we do, and the deeper meaning of why you’re doing it, and that’s been the significant one over my career still to this day. The two were the B&F and the captaincy, which was as much as what it meant for me, it’s as much as what it would’ve meant for my dad as well.”

53:50 — “That 2017 year, everything was in flow. You just knew you’d go out there and if you played the same way, things would happen. I had supreme confidence in those two years. Those couple of years were great, but - this is the way I think of it - there were obviously some lessons I needed to learn. Life has a funny way of equalising that all out: it’s funny how the next few years were pretty tough.”

58:00 — “I somewhat believe in your destiny and stuff, and looking back, I think I needed to learn that lesson. Looking back now, it probably taught me some of the bigger lessons in life that I needed to then get through what was coming next. Before those knees, in terms of my trusting circle of who I spoke to about my life and my mental health, I had a very small circle, but during my first one, I realised it wasn’t a sustainable way of living. I went on a process over the next 12 months of letting more people in. It went from Nat and maybe Lachie Henderson to [Gorringe], ‘Puss’ [Nick Graham], my mum, my brother. 

“The second one was pretty brutal, because that was the realisation that it could legitimately be me done. To go back to back on knees, I didn’t know anyone that had done that. The two knees allowed me to get on top of my mental health, and letting more people in on my life, actually having to go on a process of exploring who those people are and having those conversations that are uncomfortable with those people about what’s going on in your life and trying to hide in your life. You’ve got to be vulnerable enough to let people in. It opened up my mind and my world to being a better person, now a better dad, a better son and a better partner. It gave me a bit of perspective around footy, because who knew if I was going to come back from it. 

“My strategy these days is more around you don’t get to control what those things are in your life. Things are going to happen to you whether you like it or not. You don’t get the choice of some of it, some of it you’re not going to like, some of it you’ll love. Some of the great moments of my life, you’re privileged to have them. The bit you do get control of is the way you react to it — your body language, your mindset, your work ethic, that’s what you can control. Recently I’ve started to use the notion of writing your own story, which ‘Vossy’ has spoken about a lot. Don’t let anyone else tell your story. Don’t let the events of your life tell it, don’t let other people tell it. You get to write your own chapter.”

1:08:30 — “That [2020] year was just chaotic. Eight weeks of pre-season training at home, running up and down my driveway trying to get ready for AFL footy. We go to the hub, I noticed a lump on my testicle in the hub, I checked with the docs who thought it might have been a cyst. We were driving home from Gold Coast back to Melbourne, we got to Sydney and it just started aching. The next day Nat drove from Melbourne to Sydney in a day, the next day I got booked in for an ultrasound and I got a call when I was on the way back home where I had to pull my car over and I got told I had testicular cancer. I cried the whole way home. The next day I was in the surgeon and the day after that I was in for surgery. It was a crazy turn of events.” 

1:11:45 — “I played [in 2021], the back end of that year was when everything was going down with the review, and I was getting regular check-ups every three months. My mid-year scans had gone from having nothing to Stage 4 testicular cancer. It had move all through my lymph nodes, through my stomach, through my lungs, which then set upon the next chapter with chemo which was next.

1:16:30 — “I was stupidly trying to train through my chemo. I’m an idiot. I fully respect that I’m not quite right. I look back now and go ‘what are you doing? You’re in chemo’. I was doing some stupid shit. I don’t know what story I was telling myself. We were going through an internal review, and I was logging in on Zoom meetings from the hospital. We’re getting review findings, going through a coach sacking, and I’m sitting there on a screen, then in between that I was trying to go for runs. By my third cycle, I went for a run, and I nearly passed out. I sat on the bed, Nat asked if I was alright, and I told her I reckon I overdid it. She was like ‘yeah, you’re not running again’. The doctor said I could go for light exercise . . . I was trying to complete what the boys were doing, just not the intensity they were doing. Stupid. Light exercise probably means go for a walk."

1:29:30 — “I’d be like every other AFL player that wants to come in, win Brownlows and play 300 games. It’s taken until recently that I’ve now realised my impact on footy is greater than winning premierships and best and fairests. I get joy out of that, being able to have an impact on people that are doing it quite tough and being an inspiration of what can be done when you’re going through a really shit time. A lot of cancer patients are going through a horrible time right now. The amount of stories and messages I get off people that have come out the other end, when they were in the pit of it they were thinking about watching me play footy and thinking what can be. My mindset early in my career was I’ve got to win a flag: that’s what the mindset is around the AFL, that if you don’t win a flag then your career isn’t successful. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s taken a while for me to get that narrative out of my own head.”