Shane Tuck's sister reveals AFL great's sad decline before death

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Renee Tuck, pictured here speaking about brother Shane's death.
Shane Tuck's sister Renee has opened up about his decline before death. Image: Getty/Channel Nine

Shane Tuck's sister Renee has spoken out about the late AFL great's devastating decline in the months before his death.

The beloved midfielder, who played 173 games for Richmond, died aged 38 last year after an increasingly severe battle with his mental health.

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An autopsy later found he had a severe case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of concussions suffered while playing footy.

The condition can only be diagnosed after death and has been found in other prominent former players including Danny Frawley and Graham "Polly" Farmer, who all donated their brains to research.

Speaking to 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Tuck's sister Renee revealed how he had declined rapidly in the months before his death.

“He started becoming very confused. He was getting a bit vague and sometimes you would have to ask him things three times and that’s where it really started snowballing from there,” Renee said.

“Unfortunately we tried medication, we tried electroconvulsive surgery which is brain-zapping for depression. Nothing. You would look at him and know he was leaving us, slowly.

“He started seizing up and his motor skills were going into dementia and I knew from a year out from trying as a family to get him back, I knew we were in a lot of trouble.”

On the program, Renee was given a first-hand look at how CTE had affected her brother's brain.

“(There were) so many emotions. The reality of knowing what he went through every day and how hard it really truly was and how hard he fought for his life and for us,” she said.

“That was a bit of a heart-stabber. He was broken and he was being ravaged and tormented and traumatised every day of his life. He was living hell that boy."

Shane Tuck's death could lead to concussion inquiry

Tuck's death could become a launching point for a deeper investigation into links between concussions and lasting brain injuries.

Earlier this month, Coroner Simon McGregor said a new inquiry could launch from the good work done by the inquest into Frawley's death, which made a series of recommendations including encouraging players to donate their brains to further research.

He said his early view was that research had shown a correlation between the "genuine risk of profound lifetime injury in a profit motivated workplace, with a high turnover of young people and therefore a long aftermath trail for any consequences".

Shane Tuck, pictured here with wife Katherine at the 2012 Brownlow Medal.
Shane Tuck with wife Katherine at the 2012 Brownlow Medal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

But he's yet to determine if the case will lead to an investigation, giving interested groups including the AFL and the AFL Players Association two weeks to consider the scope of his inquiry.

Barrister Gideon Boas, assisting the inquiry, said what distinguished Tuck from Frawley and Farmer was that he was a player in the modern era of the game - playing in the AFL from 2004 to 2013.

"That raises questions about what was known, what was done and what could or should have been done in the context of the AFL," he said.

"The changes in the league's concussion rules from 2001, including the most recent imposition of a 12-day break following a concussion which has been implemented for the 2021 season, raise questions about the way the AFL managed sports-related concussions and head injuries during Mr Tuck's playing career, and continues to manage it now."

Dr Boas said there was a list of players whose football careers had ended prematurely after serious concussions, including Jonathan Brown, Nicky Winmar, Heritier Lumumba and Shaun Smith.

with AAP

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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