HE was shot at once. The bullets came within five metres.
He had bombs land within 30 metres of him and he was in a car just metres behind another that ran over a roadside bomb.
Welcome to Heath Moloney’s tour of Afghanistan with Australia’s 7th infantry battalion.
“It was bloody crazy over there,” the machine-gunner said.
Moloney and fellow soliders were based in the southern town of Tarin Kowt in the Uruzgan province from September 2008 to June 2009.
He said his job was to patrol urban areas.
“We were looking for bad guys and trying to make the area safe,” he said.
Moloney’s role involved him walking around carrying a 13-kilogram machine gun.
“I never got to shoot it once,” he said.
Not even when he was shot at.
“We didn’t know where the bullets had come from,” he said.
Moloney reluctantly returned home after his tour of Afghanistan.
“The reason you join the army is to serve overseas,” he said.
But he knows he is lucky. He is fit and healthy.
One member of his battallion didn’t make it home, killed in action. Another, his sergeant, had to be sent home early after having both ankles shattered by an improvised explosive device (IED), commonly known as a roadside bomb.
“I was in the car behind. We were about 10 metres behind. It could have been me,” Moloney said.
“It was so loud. It blew the wheels off the car.”
Moloney, who grew up at Terang, left the army after five years with the intention of travelling extensively overseas at the end of 2011.
But his father, Camperdown coach Bernard, persuaded him to put those plans on hold, return to the south-west and join the Magpies as a ruckman.
“Dad asked me to come and play and I thought I might not get the chance to play under him again,” he said. “He knows what he’s talking about. He said they had recruited well.”
Three consecutive wins to open the season were followed by a loss to reigning premier South Warrnambool last week.
“The first three games proved we can take it up to the other teams,” Moloney said.
His and the Magpies’ goals are simple.
“You can’t look too far ahead but you play and train to win a premiership. That’s why you are there. You are working so hard,” he said.
“I’m definitely here for a premiership.”
Just how far Camperdown has come from last season, when it missed the five on percentage, will again be tested today when it meets 2011 runner-up Warrnambool at Reid Oval.
In the corresponding match last year, the Magpies were thumped by 85 points. But in round 13, they produced a major upset at home, defeating the Blues by 29 points.
The 23-year-old is no stranger to premierships. He was a member of St Mary’s grand final winning team in Darwin in 2007-08 and played under his father in an under 17 flag with Kolora-Noorat in the Warrnambool and District league.
He played in three premierships from four grand final appearances with the Power in his junior career.
He also played at Terang Mortlake before joining the army and being based in Darwin. He moved from Darwin to Adelaide at the end of 2010 and joined amateur side Eastern Park.
His first-grade amateur side only managed two wins last year and, with the Magpies having exceeded that in the opening three weeks of the season, Moloney said Camperdown was looking forward to challenges like today.
Moloney’s approach to the game epitomises Camperdown in 2012. He completes 90-minute gym sessions three days a week and on training nights, he does a shorter one-hour session before hitting the track.
At 190-centimetres and 90 kilograms, he had to do weights in a bid to maintain his strength, saying he struggled to beef-up.
Even carrying a 13kg machine-gun around should have helped.
“I don’t think my body likes weight,” he said.