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When we lost Danny Frawley, we lost a sportsman Australia could be proud of.

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They called him ‘Spud’. Raised near the Victorian town of Ballarat, Danny Frawley was the son of seven generations of Irish potato farmers. And despite his incredible sporting career, that’s how he described himself: “a simple spud farmer from Bungaree that’s made his way up to the big smoke”.

To the rest of Australia, though, Frawley is legend of the AFL. A St Kilda hall of fame inductee. A five-year coach of Richmond. A vocal advocate for men’s mental health. A husband. A father of three.

Former AFL payer Jonathan Brown tearfully shares his memories of Danny Frawley.

Video via Fox Footy

On Monday, a day after his 56th birthday, Danny Frawley died in a single-vehicle crash in Millbrook, the cause of which is currently under police investigation. He was alone in the car at the time.

It’s a tragedy being deeply felt within the football community.

On Fox Footy program On The Couch last night, the panel shed tears as they remembered their colleague and friend.

Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown tearfully spoke about being a kid and watching Frawley host footy clinics in country Victoria, then having the honour of joining him in that mission as an adult.

danny frawley death
Tributes to Danny Frawley outside St Kilda Football Club. Image: Getty.
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“I looked at those kids and I thought, I saw myself in those kids. I thought, 20 years ago I was doing that," he said, his voice catching.

“And Spud’s still bringing a smile to these kids’ faces. He was just so infectious.”

"It’s incredibly difficult to put into words and to [Frawley's wife] Anita and the girls," Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos said. "I think that’s the main concern at the moment for all of us."

"The essence of a true leader": Danny Frawley's legendary career.

Frawley was drafted to St Kilda in 1984, a club he would captain for nine seasons over a 240-game career, which included winning the club's best and fairest award in 1988.

In 2000, five years after his retirement as a player, Frawley signed on as coach of Richmond, a position he held for years before poor results led him to announce his resignation. He went on to become a media personality with a commentating role on Triple M.

Danny's last match with St Kilda in 1995. Image: Getty.

Prior to his death, Frawley was working as a Fox Footy host and analyst, as well as acting as a consultant coach to St Kilda and assistant coach at amateur club, St Bedes.

But this was a man who many are remembering today for far more than his sporting achievements.

“He was an incredible man," Former Richmond captain Wayne Campbell said of his late coach, according to The Age. "The energy he had, no matter where he was, he would have 40 people around him because of his infectious personality and his ability to tell a story.

“He was the essence of a true leader because people were drawn to him and followed him."

"I have got no issue talking about mental health."

Frawley's charisma and sense of humour belied the struggles he faced in his private life. In recent years, he spoke openly about his experience of mental illness, including depression.

In 2017, he opened up to The Herald Sun about a "nervous breakdown" he'd experienced in 2014. He was serving as the AFL Coaches Association chief executive at the time, in the depths of the scandal involving the legality of Essendon's supplements program. The stress, lack of sleep and his underlying depression proved to be the "tipping point".

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Don't need any presents when I have these four #fathersday ????????

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"The most frightening thing happened when I was at the MCG one afternoon," he said. "I called [my wife] Anita up after a game. I was sitting in the car park, behind the wheel. I had no idea where to go, or what to do. I was lost. I had to call my wife up to work out how to get home from the MCG. I’d been driving home from the MCG for 30 years, and I didn’t know if I should turn left or right," he said.

"I got home, and basically sat down and just cried for two hours. I just thought: 'This is not happening to me, what’s going on?'"

Reflecting on the incident last month on the the Sacked podcast said he'd largely ignored his mental health issues until that point.

"Back in the day [I was] a stoic farm boy. Seven generations from Ireland, potato farmers. If you've got an issue, grab a tissue. If you have an ailment, work it off. If you have a big one on the squirt, get up an hour earlier and work it off. That was the DNA," he said.

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

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

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