Fraw­ley was a Saint who wore his heart on his sleeve, writes Mark Robin­son

The Western Star - - Sport -

WHO knows how it hap­pened, or why, but Danny Fraw­ley departs a much-loved al­though trou­bled man of foot­ball.

The St Kilda Hall of Famer, known al­ways as the knock­about spud farmer from Bun­ga­ree, died just a day af­ter his 56th birth­day.

His car ran off the road in Mill­brook, near Bal­larat, about 25km from the small town where he grew up.

Word of Fraw­ley’s death on Mon­day flowed quickly through the foot­ball world.

Some of his best mates were told the news by the foot­ball me­dia. Their re­ac­tions were of dis­be­lief and ut­ter grief.

St Kilda staff were told about 4pm Mon­day that an ac­ci­dent had oc­curred and Fraw­ley was in­volved.

The an­nounce­ment floored staff who had worked with him for many years.

There were many parts to Fraw­ley: The fam­ily man, the foot­baller, the coach, the me­dia prankster. And then the one we got to know only in re­cent times — the one en­veloped by a dark­ness he couldn’t shake.

What a tragic end it was for the sim­ple spud farmer. He had moved to the big smoke from Bun­ga­ree, via Bal­larat, to join his beloved St Kilda in the early 1980s and made his de­but in 1984.

To ev­ery­one in foot­ball, he was known as ‘Spud’, the court jester with the smil­ing face who some­times let his emo­tions get the bet­ter of him.

They might’ve got the bet­ter of him, but they endeared him to us.

His speech to wel­come great mate Tony Lock­ett into the St Kilda Hall of Fame in 2010 was Fraw­ley at his rawest and lov­ing best.

“He’s hum­ble, he doesn’t like talk­ing about him­self, he is the Don Brad­man of our time … I’m sorry for get­ting emo­tional but … I’ve lost it, thank you.”

That was Fraw­ley on stage with ‘Plug­ger’, who threw an arm around his mate.

His me­dia mates took the mickey out of him for it — when didn’t they when they had the op­por­tu­nity? — and he gave it back. But that night, the

St Kilda faith­ful saw a man who loved ‘Plug­ger’ and St Kilda.

His wife Anita and three daugh­ters, Chelsea, Danielle and Kee­ley were his ev­ery­thing.

On Mon­day, just hours be­fore be­ing told of their fa­ther’s death, two of Fraw­ley’s daugh­ters were seen cheer­fully buy­ing him a shirt in South Yarra for his 56th birth­day.

As his friend and long-time me­dia col­league Brian Tay­lor said, Fraw­ley’s fam­ily meant ev­ery­thing to him.

“He loved his fam­ily and was an ab­so­lute gen­tle­man. He also had a wide cir­cle of mates,” Tay­lor said.

“There was the Triple M crew like Ja­son Dun­stall, Bill Brown­less, James Brayshaw and Garry Lyon, but he had also kept his friends from his Bal­larat days.

“Spud was a straight-shoot­ing, knock­about coun­try boy at heart.”

Fraw­ley was a proud St Kilda and Vic­to­rian per­son, and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to the Ir­ish in­ter­na­tional se­ries.

He played 240 games for the Saints from 1984-95 and cap­tained them from 1987-94.

He was a full­back with men­ace, his lack of nat­u­ral skill coun­tered by all those traits which Teddy Whit­ten used to love: Guts, de­ter­mi­na­tion and, Whit­ten’s favourite phrase, “I want you to in­spire me” .

Fraw­ley was close to Whit­ten and was in tears in the rooms and on the ground on that fa­mous day in 1995 when the coach did his fi­nal lap of hon­our of the MCG.

For a toughie, ‘Spud’ was a softie and boy he loved the Saints.

On Fox Footy’s Bounce pro­gram, which he shared with Dun­stall, Fraw­ley would don his fa­mous No.2 when­ever he could.

Kids who never saw Fraw­ley play will re­mem­ber him as funlov­ing and play­ful, whether it be pulling faces, dress­ing up, fak­ing in­juries or — which hap­pened some­times — sus­tain­ing real in­juries. The day he took a ping pong ball to the groin and col­lapsed in agony is leg­endary at Fox Footy.

Af­ter his play­ing days, Fraw­ley was an as­sis­tant coach at Colling­wood be­fore join­ing Rich­mond as se­nior coach.

At the Tigers he was some­times as com­bat­ive in his post­match press con­fer­ences as he was as a take-no-pris­on­ers de­fender.

A pas­sion­ate stu­dent of our game, be­ing ap­pointed coach of the Tigers in 2000 re­mained one of Fraw­ley’s proud­est foot­balling mo­ments.

Leon Daphne was the Rich­mond pres­i­dent who over­saw his ap­point­ment.

“I liked Danny’s hard-work­ing and at times ag­gres­sive ap­proach as a player, and when cou­pled with a touch of emo­tion I thought it would be a good mix to coach Rich­mond,” Daphne said.

“Ul­ti­mately it didn’t work out but he took us on a very ex­cit­ing ride to the 2001 pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

“I just feel so sad for Anita, their girls and ex­tended fam­ily.”

Sacked by Rich­mond mid­way through 2004, he was spent. The toxic world of a fail­ing coach had seeped into his fam­ily life. The night he was spat on by a Rich­mond sup­porter was shame­ful at the time and even more sick­en­ing now.

Those ter­ri­ble Rich­mond days near the end never left him.

He joined Triple M and ad­mit­ted this year he used his po­si­tion to take pot shots at those he be­lieved made his life hell at the Tigers.

His time as boss of the coaches’ as­so­ci­a­tion also took its toll.

One day, he had what he de­scribed as a men­tal break­down when cov­er­ing a game at the MCG. He had for­got­ten how to get home and had to call Anita.

“I was strug­gling with de­pres­sion and I had no idea who I was,” he said.

“That was a by-prod­uct of be­ing on this tread­mill of life and not smelling the roses, try­ing to please ev­ery­one other than my­self.”

His de­par­ture from Triple M and the com­pany of Dun­stall, Lyon, Brayshaw and Tay­lor at the end of 2015 was said to have fur­ther knocked the con­fi­dence out of him.

He did join SEN but that wasn’t re­ally his en­vi­ron­ment.

In more re­cent times, Fraw­ley had be­come a strong ad­vo­cate for men­tal health and player wel­fare. He was booked to speak at a func­tion to­mor­row as part of RUOK day.

He was al­ways a man of fun and care but, maybe at the end, to his own detri­ment.

If you or some­one you know needs help, con­tact Life­line on 13 11 14.


LEG­END: For­mer VFL/AFL foot­baller, coach and com­men­ta­tor Danny Fraw­ley, (in­set, top) in his play­ing days at St Kilda with Tony Lock­ett, and (in­set, above) with Bounce co-host and for­mer on-field ri­val Ja­son Dun­stall.

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