I Shirt-Fronted Danny Frawley And He Never Even Spilt His Coffee

My first brush with Spud was more like a collision.

It was in the Punt Road corridors in the year 2000. I was 17 and had been invited to Tigerland to do some pre-draft fitness testing with the hope of being selected a few weeks later.

The plan was to do the running tests on the oval, but it was p*ssing down with rain and the ground was considered too wet so we were moved into the gym.

The 30-metre sprint was done on a makeshift running lane just outside Spud’s office. Most of the doors in the corridor were closed but Spud’s was open... I’m tipping that was his policy as a coach!

Four draft hopefuls were to be tested that morning (Swans premiership player Ted Richards was one of them). I was the youngest, the skinniest and I reckon I was the most nervous as we waited to put our best feet forward in the hope of living AFL dreams, or at least getting the chance to live one.

Image: Getty.

I was to be tested first, a 30-metre dash between two digital timing gates in the bowels of Punt Road. My giraffe-like legs were shaking as the fitness boffin counted 3-2-1, then clapped.

I took off, arms pumping, legs kinda stumbling but also gathering pace up the hallway... by the 15-metre mark I raised my head to drive to the line... then whack... I collided head on with the senior coach (Spud) and hit the deck.

Spud had been on the phone in his office and was completely unaware that four keen-as-mustard draftees were running for their footy lives outside.

Like most of the players he collided with in his 240-game career with the Saints, I came off second best. Spud was holding a freshly made cup of Nescafé when I smashed into him. His big Bungaree-born frame absorbed the hit without spilling a drop.

Danny Frawley of the Saints is chaired off the ground playing for St Kilda in 1995. (Photo by Getty Images)

Looking back, I think he enjoyed getting some physical contact early on a Tuesday morning! On the other hand, I was left winded and slightly embarrassed by my DNF effort in the 30-metre dash.

Sensing my unease, Spud quickly grabbed me and said "Sorry Champ, I stuffed up your run, didn’t see ya". He then introduced himself to me and the other boys, wished us luck and urged us to give it our best shot.

I never went on to have an AFL career but signed on to play in the Tigers VFL team and was invited to complete three more pre-seasons with Richmond. Spud often attended the VFL games and on more than one occasion offered words of encouragement, coupled with the advice to stick at it.

Roughly a decade on, our paths would start to cross in AFL media centres while we were calling matches on the radio. He would always shake my hand and seemed slightly disappointed when at age 32 I informed him I was no longer playing local footy on my Saturdays off.

Frawley coaching the Tigers in 2004. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

One day he popped his head into the 3AW commentary box and told me he thought I was a ‘ bit stiff’ not to make it to the big time but I should be proud of working in the footy media.

"It’s not a bad way to put food on the table ," he said. He was bloody right and I try to remind myself of this every day.

The entire footy community is hurting today because it’s lost one of its most loved members. I’ll miss the big smile, the big handshake and the belly laugh and I’ll miss him bringing the fun and passion to footy broadcasting.

Rest In Peace, Spud. Enjoy the finals from the best seat in the house. I’ll never forget our little sliding doors moment and will continue to be proud of working in the footy media.

Big man, Big personality, Big heart and that Big smile, That’s how I’ll remember Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley.

Dunstall, Danny and Cyril - three champions of the game. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images for Fox Footy)