Triumphs and tortures of a footy legend
Danny Frawley had everything to live for: a beautiful family, a proud footballing past and the adoration of mates across the country.
But in one awful moment, a day after celebrating his 56th birthday, the Australian football and media legend was gone.
Frawley’s grieving family will now draw on the memories of his strength and sense of humour in the wake of his death in a road crash near his childhood farm. The cause of the crash is unknown.
Frawley’s wife, Anita, and three daughters Chelsea, Danielle and Keeley last night declared they had been left humbled by the “outpouring of love and kindness’’ after his utility on Monday hit a tree at Millbrook, near Ballarat, where the St Kilda star grew up.
Former BeyondBlue chairman Jeff Kennett told yesterday how Frawley had confided in him about his depression several times in recent years. “He came and saw me and we spoke on a number of occasions to try to address some of those issues and he fought the good fight,” Kennett said.
“But it really got him down. You work so hard in your life and he’s got such a beautiful family and in the end I suspect, I don’t know for sure — no one does — I just feel as though things bubbled over in his life.”
Kennett, a former Victorian premier and the Hawthorn AFL club president, added that he did not have evidence that linked Frawley’s depression to the crash.
Frawley’s death, being investigated by the Victorian Coroner, has left the sport shattered.
While Frawley also coached AFL powerhouse Richmond with mixed results, it was his 240-game stretch for St Kilda as a competition-leading backman between 1984 and 1995 that cemented his reputation as a hard but fair giant of the game. St Kilda fans on Tuesday left scarfs and football jumpers at the front door of St Kilda’s Moorabbin headquarters, as well as flowers and three potatoes for the man known as Spud .
A high-profile media career with Fox Footy made him one of the best-known figures in southeastern Australia.
Players to laud Frawley’s legacy include goalkicking champion Tony Lockett, indigenous legend Nicky Winmar, former captain Aaron Hamill and friend and former teammate Michael Roberts, who said he was shell-shocked by the death. Winmar, a St Kilda teammate of Frawley, said his friend’s death was “just devastating”.“It’s a wake-up call for the AFL. Depression and anxiety, you’ve got to let people know we are humans and not robots,” he said. “We played our best sport for our clubs, we gave our heart and souls to our clubs.”
Frawley’s family released a statement yesterday, describing him as a loving husband and devoted father: “Danny made friends from all walks of life,’’ they said. “He had a smile that would light up a room, an infectious laugh and an easy charm that made people feel good about themselves. He genuinely liked and cared about people and they
loved him back. Danny was to all who knew him a caring, loyal, selfless, loving person who would always put others first before himself and, aside from his work in football and media, he worked hard to use his profile to remove the stigma associated with depression and encouraged acceptance and support for those who suffered with mental health issues.’’
Frawley was raised on a potato farm at Bungaree, Victoria, and was known to friends as “Spud’’.
The family statement read: “Danny was one of six children, Danny was loved by his mother, Shirley, and late father Brian. He will be sadly missed by his brothers and sisters: Christine, Michael, Tony, Anne and Marita.
“The Frawley families are totally shocked and devastated by his passing, but Danny provided us with strength, good humour and unwavering support during his extraordinary life, memories which will be cherished and help us cope with his tragic death.
“His legacy and love will never be dimmed. Forever in our hearts.”
The AFL will hold a moment of silence at finals matches this weekend to honour Frawley.
‘He had a smile that would light up a room, and an infectious laugh’: Danny Frawley with wife Anita and daughters Chelsea, Keeley and Danielle
Flowers left by the tree that Frawley’s utility hit