'Darkness he couldn't shake': Danny Frawley's devastating personal struggle

Heartbreaking details are emerging about Danny Frawley’s personal struggles after the AFL legend was killed in a car crash in Victoria on Monday.

Frawley died when the ute he was driving hit a tree near Ballarat on Monday afternoon. He turned 56 on Sunday.

No-one else was in the car at the time and investigators are working to determine the exact cause of the crash.

He is survived by his wife Anita and daughters Chelsea, Danielle and Keeley.

Danny Frawley, pictured here during a St Kilda training session in 2017.
Danny Frawley looks on during a St Kilda training session in 2017. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

As the AFL community comes to grips with the devastating tragedy, details are emerging about his personal turmoil.

Frawley played a key role in bringing awareness to mental health issues, opening up for the first time two years ago about his own demons.

According to close friend and St Kilda great Michael Roberts, he was “suffering”.

“He got out of it and there’s troughs too. So he’s had to work hard not only to express himself, but to also look after his own wellbeing,” Roberts told Channel 7’s Talking Footy on Monday night.

“To do that and to get over that hurdle and then to go talk about it is massive and that just shows the character of what he is all about.

“I used to walk the beaches with him for hours just talking with him and he was up and down like a trough.”

‘Darkness he couldn’t shake’

Herald Sun writer Mark Robinson said Frawley’s mental health battle was a “darkness he couldn’t shake”.

Robinson revealed how Frawley was devastated after leaving a commentary role with Triple M in 2015.

“He lost his self-worth when he lost his Triple M job and the company of Dunstall, Lyon, Brayshaw and BT,” Robinson wrote.

Hawthorn president and Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett also spoke about Frawley’s struggles on Tuesday.

“He came and saw me and we spoke on a number of occasions to try and address some of those issues and he fought the good fight. But it really got him down,” Kennett told Sunrise.

“You work so hard in your life — and he’s got such a beautiful family — and in the end I suspect, I don’t know for sure, no one does but I just feel as though things bubbled over in his life.

“It’s very hard when you hear of a death of a friend.

“But more importantly when you know how much they’ve tried to address and adjust the things Danny talked about himself.”

Frawley recently opened up about breakdown

Frawley recently opened up about suffering a ‘mental breakdown’ in 2014 when he was working as AFL Coaches Association chief executive during the Essendon supplements saga.

He told the Herald Sun’s Sacked Podcast that he was so sleep-deprived he got in his car after leaving the MCG and forgot where he was supposed to be going.

“The most frightening thing happened,’’ he said.

“I was sitting in the car park, behind the wheel. I had no idea where to go, or what to do. I just thought (depression) was like a broken arm.

“It took me three or four years to come out.

“Manning up in the past was to suffer in silence. Manning up now is to put your hand up. I have got no problem talking about mental health and what I went through because I hope I help a lot of people in that.”

Danny Frawley and Cyril Rioli, pictured here before the AFL grand final in 2018.
Danny Frawley and Cyril Rioli in 2018. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images for Fox Footy)

Frawley, nicknamed Spud because he grew up on a potato farm in Bungaree near Ballarat, played 240 games for St Kilda from 1984-95.

He was the club's longest-serving captain until Nick Riewoldt surpassed him in 2016 and was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame in 2007.

Following his playing career, Frawley coached Richmond for five years until 2004, before becoming the chief executive of the AFL Coaches' Association.

His term there coincided with the turmoil of the Essendon supplements saga that took a toll on his mental health.

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.

with AAP