Heartbreaking details are emerging about the days before Danny Frawley’s tragic death.
The much-loved AFL figure, who bravely spoke out in recent years about his mental health issues, died on Monday when the ute he was driving hit a tree near Ballarat.
No one else was in the car at the time.
Victoria Police have confirmed the fatal crash is not being treated as suspicious.
As the AFL world continues to mourn for Frawley, harrowing details are emerging about his personal struggle.
According to a report in The Age on Wednesday, Frawley was due to spend time with his family for his 56th birthday in his home town of Bungaree the day before he died, but didn’t show up.
“In the final months of his life, as he dealt with growing mental health and personal crises, Frawley spent a lot of time in Bungaree and the nearby town of Ballarat, reconnecting with a place that made him happiest,” Chip le Grand wrote on Wednesday.
“The day before he died, Frawley had planned to mark his 56th birthday by visiting family, but he didn't show.”
The Age also reported that Frawley was booked in to see a psychiatrist in Melbourne on the day he died.
Frawley previously opened up about mental health
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.
He 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.”
According to close friend and St Kilda great Michael Roberts, Frawley 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.”
Luke Darcy, Tim Watson, Wayne Carey and Michael Roberts pay tribute to Danny Frawley.— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 9, 2019
Rest in peace, Spud 🙏 pic.twitter.com/LMRGx068i5
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.”
"He has publicly spoken about his dealings with depression.. he fought the good fight... but I suspect things just bubbled over"— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) September 9, 2019
Jeff Kennett on AFL legend Danny Frawley's tragic death. pic.twitter.com/qcyWpoBspG
Frawley is survived by his wife Anita and their three daughters, Chelsea, Danielle and Keeley, along with his mother and five siblings.
Family members said they were shocked and devastated by his death but reflected on his love for his family and his work to support those suffering mental health issues.
"The Frawley families are totally shocked and devastated by his passing, but Danny provided us with strength, good humour and unwavering support during his extraordinary life, memories which will be cherished and help us cope with his tragic death," a statement read.
"Danny made friends from all walks of life. He had a smile that would light up a room, an infectious laugh and an easy charm that made people feel good about themselves. He genuinely liked and cared about people and they loved him back.
"Danny was to all who knew him a caring, loyal, selfless, loving person who would always put others first before himself and, aside from his work in football and media, he worked hard to use his profile to remove the stigma associated with depression and encouraged acceptance and support for those who suffered with mental health issues."
I am not going to add anything here because of the sadness of it all. My thoughts and prayers with the friends and family of Danny Frawley https://t.co/rNQawJVCJF— David Votoupal (@Everton4Life) September 10, 2019
Frawley made his mark on the AFL in a number of roles, including as St Kilda captain, Richmond coach and, more recently, as a media personality.
The family had been "overwhelmed" by community support.
"We would like to sincerely thank everyone for the outpouring of love and kindness at this time," the statement said.
"We are overwhelmed by the messages of support following his death. We are humbled, proud and incredibly touched."