Tri­umphs and tor­tures of a footy le­gend

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN FER­GU­SON AS­SO­CIATE EDITOR

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.

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‘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

JAY TOWN

Flow­ers left by the tree that Fraw­ley’s util­ity hit

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