AFLW star Heather Anderson's father breaks silence after tragic death

Seen here, former AFLW star Heather Anderson getting tackled with the footy.
Heather Anderson's father says the overwhelming response to her tragic death shows how many lives the fallen AFLW star touched. Pic: Getty

The father of late AFLW star Heather Anderson has thanked the Australian sporting community for their touching messages in the wake of the 28-year-old's tragic death.

News of Anderson's sudden death this week left the AFLW community shocked and devastated, with tributes pouring in for the Adelaide Crows premiership winner on social media.

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Details around Anderson's death were initially scarce, but it's since been revealed she tragically took her own life inside a Perth army barracks on Sunday.

“Heather was a current serving medic who... tragically took her own life on barracks Sunday morning,” a post on a Facebook page for the veteran community read on Tuesday.

“We can’t harp on this enough, which is why we repeat it so often: Whether you are serving or ex-serving, know that we are a community that helps each other out. Please reach out to your mate for help if you need it.”

Anderson's father Brian confirmed to the Adelaide Advertiser that his daughter had died by suicide and said the overwhelming response from his daughter's former teammates and colleagues showed how many lives she'd manage to touch.

Pictured here, former Adelaide AFLW premiership winner Heather Anderson greets fans after a game.
The death of Adelaide AFLW premiership winner Heather Anderson at 28 has rocked the Australian sporting community. Pic: Twitter

“The response to the news of Heather taking her own life have shown us that she had friends, teammates, and fellow soldiers all across the country,” he said.

“Heather had a passion for the Army, football and learning and the Army gave her incredible opportunities; opportunities she found and pursued with incredible focus.

“(The) Army gave her the space to pursue AFLW and a career in equal measure. Army gave her the best medical and rehabilitation support we could imagine after the second shoulder dislocation in the inaugural AFLW grand final.

“With that support Heather was able to recover and then gain an elite level of fitness so as to then work supporting some of the elite units in the Army, and gain qualifications we could only dream of.

“And yet she found time to complete her degree in Paramedicine and undertake a degree in Psychology.

“We treasure the memories of her and her achievements , and are in awe of the outpouring of support from across Australia.”

Anderson was taken with the 10th pick overall in the inaugural AFLW draft in 2016, and she went on to play eight games in the Crows' premiership-winning campaign of 2017.

The tough defender dislocated her right shoulder in the grand final win over Brisbane, forcing her to have a second reconstruction in the space of a year.

The Crows delisted her ahead of the 2018 season, and Anderson never played again at AFLW level.

AFLW community rocked by Heather Anderson's death

“She remained a really strong supporter of our team and a friend to everyone involved in the program,” Adelaide head of women’s football Phil Harper said.

“So much so she would still come to our games and was at this year’s Season Six grand final at Adelaide Oval in April.

“Obviously we are deeply saddened by the news of Heather’s passing and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends, and suffice to say it’s been a difficult and emotional time for many of us at the Adelaide Football Club.”

Anderson became somewhat of a cult hero for wearing a pink helmet in games. She later explained it was to help her vision-impaired mother spot her on the field.

"She hated watching me get smashed and she couldn't really see me play in the field," Anderson told Mamamia in 2017.

"I hated pink and anything girly, so she would joke, 'Maybe if you spray painted your helmet pink, I'd come and watch you play'.

"So I bought one in a sports shop as a joke and said, 'now I've got one you've gotta come watch me play'. It just sort of went from there."

Crows captain Chelsea Randall was just one of many former teammates of Anderson to pay tribute to the fallen star, describing her as “the kindest human you would ever meet”.

AFL Players' Association chief executive Paul Marsh said: "All at the AFLPA extend our deepest sympathies to Heather's family, friends and all of those people who worked and played alongside her at Adelaide.

"This is a terribly sad time and we will offer whatever services and support Heather's family, former teammates and the Adelaide Football club may need during this tough time."

AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone added: “Words cannot express the deep sadness amongst the AFL and AFLW community at this time. Our sincerest condolences are to the Anderson family.

“On behalf of the AFL, I would like to express my deepest compassion to Heather’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Adelaide's AFLW squad will wear black armbands in honour of Anderson during Friday night's preliminary final against Brisbane at Metricon Stadium.

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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