Vale Danny 'Spud' Frawley, The Footy Great Who Never Did Anything By Halves
The AFL community is mourning the loss of one of its own: a bloke simply known as Spud.
Former St Kilda captain and Richmond coach Danny Frawley died in a single-vehicle accident yesterday afternoon and his sudden death has devastated all who knew, watched or listened to him.
A seventh-generation potato farmer from Bungaree, a small rural district near Ballarat in western Victoria, Frawley was affectionately dubbed Spud. His passing has hit so many so hard because we all know a guy like Spud: a boy from the bush, a larrikin with a beaming smile and a bigger heart, with a passion for everything he did and an overwhelming care for others.
He wasn’t a sport star from a privileged background, who was untouchable and lived a lifestyle out of reach to the fans who cheered for him each and every weekend. Spud was a man of the people; he was relatable.
Former St Kilda teammate Nathan Burke has remembered Frawley as a passionate man who didn’t do anything by halves.
Frawley never stopped giving back to the game he loved.
During turbulent times in the 1980s and early 90s, he kept the St Kilda Football Club together, and as the heart and soul of the place he led both on and off the field. He is the second-longest serving captain of the club which hasn’t experienced premiership glory since 1966.
Later, he took the reins at Richmond and in 2001 led the success-starved Tigers to a preliminary final berth.
His exit from the club was messy. Impatient, angry fans turned on the coach, their behaviour abhorrent to the point some spat on him as he walked down the players’ race to the change rooms during one particularly bad defeat.
Getting the sack from the Tigers hurt Frawley deeply.
But he turned it into a positive and headed up the AFL Coaches Association, providing support and resources for the league’s 18 coaches. Spud drew on his own experiences to benefit others.
Through radio and television, Frawley found a new generation of fans. People who never saw Spud play for the Saints now had an affinity for him through his gags, antics and love of laughter.
In more recent years, Frawley opened up about his mental health issues and in doing so helped break down barriers and perceptions about the 'old-school footy star' made from 'tough stuff'.
He created and hosted a radio program, No Man Should Ever Walk Alone, which shined a spotlight on men’s health, and he often participated in and gave up his time for a range of charities. Tragically, he was booked for a speaking engagement for this Thursday's RUOK Day.
Above all, Frawley, who turned 56 on Sunday, loved his “beautiful girls”: wife Anita and three daughters Danielle, Chelsea and Keeley.
Through the way he lived and the people he cared about, Spud reminded us of what truly matters in life. His loss will be deeply felt by the footy community, and the country, for decades to come.