Brutal night of TV after Frawley death

 

Tributes have poured in for AFL legend Danny Frawley, who died in a car crash in Millbrook, 20km east of Ballarat.

The 240-game St Kilda legend and former Richmond coach died at the scene of the one-vehicle crash, one day after his 56th birthday.

MORE: Classic one-liner sums up 'Spud'

The news has been met with disbelief from the Australian sporting community with the larger-than-life character being remembered fondly.

SAD NIGHT ON FOX FOOTY

Danny Frawley chaired off after his final game in 1995.
Danny Frawley chaired off after his final game in 1995.

While Frawley was much loved, having touched almost every aspect of the AFL world, Fox Sports' Fox Footy has shared an emotional afternoon with several presenters breaking down on air.

Bill Woods took several deep breaths as he reported the news breaking, while Neroli Meadows fought to maintain her composure as she reported the news on AFL Tonight.

Former Saints and Essendon defender Brendan Goddard said his impact and legacy on the AFL "will be forever entrenched in the game".

But on AFL360, Fox Footy dedicated the first half an hour of the show to Frawley with hosts Gerard Whateley and Mark Robinson joined by the On the Couch team of Gerard Healy, Paul Roos and Jonathan Brown.

Robinson said it was a "heavy heartbreaker" while Garry Lyon and Jason Dunstall were unable to make an appearance on TV, having been arguably his closest two on-air partners.

It was clear it was still raw with Brown speaking through tears over his great memories of Frawley, including seeing he and Roos touring country Victoria with coaching clinics and giving back to the game.

"My first memory of Spud was with Roosy when they used to go around Victoria and do the Victorian super clinics," Brown said.

"Coming to the ground and seeing Spud, and then 20 years later I was doing the same thing with him, when we were going around country Victoria on the Toyota regional bus tours.

"I looked at those kids and I thought, I saw myself in those kids. I thought, 20 years ago I was doing that.

"And Spud's still bringing a smile to these kids' faces. He was just so infectious."

Jason Dunstall and Danny Frawley with Bounces’ 350th birthday cake.
Jason Dunstall and Danny Frawley with Bounces’ 350th birthday cake.

Roos also went on those tours of country Victoria with Spud. "I remember going to the pubs at Horsham and the pubs at Warrnambool, and we shouldn't have been doing 'em and it was a Wednesday night," he said.

"It was midweek, we played on the Saturday, we were playing the next Saturday, I'm sure Wallsy and Parko had no idea until tonight that we used to go and have a drink at the pub. And Spud was one of the ring leaders.

"The smile he brought to the kids' faces, and we're talking back in the mid-80s. That journey that he's been on for so long of making kids smile and adults smile, all the way up to Bounce on Saturday. We were in here on Saturday (with him)."

Healy, who was good friends with Frawley as well as their daughters being close friends, said it struck hard.

"We're all lucky to have worked in this building and some of us are on TV and people know us, and others are behind the scenes. But as one we've lost a really big family member," Healy said.

"It's hard to express the loss, it's hard to express the shock that we've heard and felt when we first found out about losing Spud Frawley.

"He was a great footballer, he did a lot of things in football, Spud was one of us and I think forget all the football stuff - Spud was a great mentor to a lot of people.

"I know Danielle, his daughter, very well. She's a great friend of my daughter Loui.

"Just feeling what they'd be going through right now is almost incomprehensible."

In a statement, Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany and Head of Fox Sports Peter Campbell shared their sadness at the news.

"Words cannot convey our deep love and respect for Danny Frawley," it read.

"The Fox Sports family, and particularly Fox Footy, today lost one of its own - a leader, a man of incredible passion, insight and love for his family and for his game, AFL.

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"Our deepest love and wishes go to wife Anita and their three daughters Chelsea, Danielle, and Keeley and to his many teammates, both in front and behind the camera. It is a tragic time for all.

"Danny gave us so many laughs and magic moments, from his playing days at St Kilda, coaching at Richmond and then his gifted touches at Fox Footy, as late as Saturday night on his favourite program, Bounce."

FOOTY WORLD REACTS

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan shared his condolences to the Frawley family and friends across the sport.

"It is a devastating day for the wider football community, and Danny's loss will be taken very hard by so many people within our industry, as well as within our own organisation," he said.

"Danny was passionate about footy and passionate about people. He made such a positive and lasting influence on so many in our game.

"He was a friend to all at the AFL and everyone in the wider football community. 'Spud' was loved by all, always a popular visitor to AFL House and our thoughts are with Anita, Chelsea, Danielle and Keeley."

Danny Frawley was a St Kilda legend.
Danny Frawley was a St Kilda legend.

St Kilda, the team where Frawley made his name in the sport, saw fans paying tribute to the star with a makeshift shrine at the club headquarters.

Saints president Andrew Bassat said the club would always be there for Frawley's family.

"Danny will be remembered as one of St Kilda's greatest ever players and a dear friend to so many at the football club," Bassat said.

"He was a larger-than-life character, a generous and warm personality, and a favourite son who has left an indelible mark on St Kilda.

"Danny was an active member of our Past Players' Committee and a much-loved champion to our thousands of supporters.

"We share our grief with them and we will endeavour to provide an opportunity for them to share their own personal tributes in the coming days."

A tribute is seen at the St.Kilda Football club after the sudden death of Saints legend Danny Frawley. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)
A tribute is seen at the St.Kilda Football club after the sudden death of Saints legend Danny Frawley. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

Former Richmond champion Matthew Richardson, who played under Frawley, remembered his time with Frawley fondly.

"More than anything for me 'Spud' was a charismatic character who you wanted to be around," Richardson said.

"He made you feel good, made you laugh, made you smile, which made it an enjoyable environment in his first few years at Richmond.

"I haven't enjoyed a season more than 2001. It was because of those qualities that you wanted to play for Spud. He will be sadly missed by so many. Every time I've seen him since his coaching days I've left with a smile on my face. I will miss bumping into him at the footy."

On Channel 9 News Melbourne, veteran AFL reporter and host of the Sunday Footy Show Tony Jones, who was in Manchester covering the Ashes Test, gave an emotional tribute to the legend.

"It's shattering news to hear word of Danny Frawley, while we had have an inkling late this afternoon, the fact it's now been confirmed makes it really hard to deal with," he said.

Frawley had very good days, and very bad as Richmond coach.
Frawley had very good days, and very bad as Richmond coach.

"Like so many people in the football community, I had the opportunity to work alongside Danny and I've got to say every moment of that was a treat because while he was the knock-around country kid when he played for St Kilda, when he went into the coaching mode and it was probably a period of his life that he had some highs but there were also some terrible lows. It was a result of those lows that he suffered those demons that he suffered later in later life.

"People who've seen Danny Frawley in person just walk away loving him even more than they did when he actually played the game.

"I'd personally would like to express my sympathies to Anita Frawley and their daughters, and we can only wish that the Frawley family somehow get through this because it's a terrible, terrible loss for a man who deserved so much more out of life and a man who gave so much to so many people."

Social media has been flooded with tributes from the AFL world and great Australian sporting community.

FRAWLEY PRAISED AS MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE

Frawley was a one-team player during his playing career, playing each of his 240-game career at St Kilda.

He also captain St Kilda for 177 games, which was then a club record until overtaken by Nick Riewoldt.

Post playing, Frawley was the Richmond Tigers coach between 2000-2004, where he guided the side to the 2001 preliminary final.

But after finishing with the wooden spoon in 2004, Frawley announced he would resign from the club and held part-time coaching roles throughout the remainder of his life.

Danny Frawley was St Kilda.
Danny Frawley was St Kilda.

In recent years, Frawley has been known as an AFL commentator and host on television and radio, including Fox Footy's Bounce, of which he hosted with Jason Dunstall for more than 13 seasons.

The popular presenter earlier this year celebrated his 350th episode of lighthearted footy panel show.

But while he seemed like a happy figure, Frawley spoke at length during the Herald Sun's Sacked podcast last month about his mental health struggles.

For all the highs of a career in football that featured the St Kilda captaincy, coaching Richmond and more than a decade as a commentator, there had been some dreadful lows.

But Frawley talked about dealing with his struggles and life seemed good again for the potato farmer from Bungaree, outside Ballarat.

Family was also everything to Frawley. He loved his Bungaree lineage - the pavilion at the local football ground is named after him - and he was photographed regularly with wife Anita and their three daughters.

Frawley was a likeable character and his personality made him a natural for long-term commentary roles on radio and TV.

Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley was a seventh generation potato farmer.
Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley was a seventh generation potato farmer.

Frawley, who was the nephew of Collingwood great Des Tuddenham and uncle of current Hawthorn defender James Frawley, was recruited in the early 1980s from Ballarat by St Kilda.

He originally played as a key forward, but quickly made his name at fullback.

After his time as a football player and coach, Frawley stayed involved in football, gravitating easily into his media roles and also becoming chief executive of the AFL Coaches' Association.

But his term there coincided with the turmoil of the Essendon supplements debacle and the stresses around that saga took their toll. Last month's newspaper feature included Frawley's stark account of suffering a nervous breakdown in the MCG carpark in 2014 at the peak of Essendon's issues.

He said cried behind the wheel of his car and couldn't remember how to get home, calling his wife to pick him up.

"It was something in my psyche … all of those thing built up to a tipping point. If it wasn't that, it was going to be something else," Frawley said.

"Out of that I got major depression and looking back I probably had bits of depression all the way through.

"I just thought (depression) was like a broken arm. It took me three or four years to come out. I am well aware when I do too much now what a lack of sleep does to you," he said.

"Basically it turns you insane. Through those Richmond years I never lost a wink of sleep. Not a wink."

On Talking Footy, former St Kilda, Richmond and Fitzroy star and Frawley's great mate Michael Roberts said talking about his mental health battles showed "the character of what Danny Frawley was about".

For all the stresses that came with football, the game also helped him. While he stepped away from the coaches' association, after a spell out of public life, he returned to media commentary roles.

- with AAP

News Corp Australia

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