LONDON: It was only an exhibition match but Port Adelaide's Brad Ebert could not stop his raw emotions from surfacing in south London.
Understandably so, after a difficult couple of months since the death of his best mate, John McCarthy, on an end-of-season trip to Las Vegas.
After kicking the winning goal against the Western Bulldogs in Port's 14.4 (88) to 13.9 (87) win from 50 metres out on the boundary line with 40 seconds remaining, Ebert kissed the black tape on his arm and looked to the skies to salute his former teammate.
''There are a lot of emotions going through the last few months and obviously Dani [Smarrelli], John's girlfriend, was here tonight and over the last year we have got on really well,'' Ebert said.
''He was my best mate and so it was great to be able to kick that goal and, even though it was only an exhibition match, it was really nice to be able to do that. I had to give it a bit, just give him a salute.''
The death of McCarthy, who also played for Collingwood, had pained ex-West Coast player Ebert after the pair formed a strong bond since arriving at Alberton Oval from different clubs a year ago.
''We will always have J-Mac's memory with us,'' he said. ''We will be able to move on and while it still will hurt for a long time, we will be able to use that on the footy field.''
Ebert believed the pre-season trip to Europe, which included a stop in Milan, had been vital for the players making a fresh start after a horrible year.
''Just get to know the young blokes and a few of the coaches and start building,'' he said. ''For me personally, I got a few good weeks before the camps to be able to come away with my girlfriend and catch up with a few mates over here and get away from everything that was happening in town.''
Ebert said players and their partners had persuaded Smarrelli, who had to be comforted after the match at The Oval, to make the trip to the Britain.
''She was initially going to come over with John and, after everything that happened, she was going to cancel it but the flights were already booked,'' Ebert said.
''We just sort of said: 'Why don't you come across?'
''It was nice for her to get away as well, otherwise she would have just been stuck in Melbourne … and not been able to get over here and get around the girls and try to have a bit of fun. I think it has been good for her.''
With both teams far from full strength, the Bulldogs opened up a six-goal lead in the third quarter before the Power responded with nine unanswered majors in front of a crowd of nearly 10,000 on a cold, clear night.
The Dogs reclaimed the lead before Ebert sealed the win with a beautiful kick from a tight angle.