“This is a stunning case of the debilitating nature of abuse and how this can cut anyone down, no matter who they are.”
Nineties football legend Peter Jackson was famous for his athleticism on the field and for his humour and high spirits off it.
He is described as ‘the Matty Johns of his era’. To his contemporaries, he was the man least likely to be hiding a devastating secret.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett puts it this way: “He was so gifted, so much ability and … then the devil would come along”.
Jackson died of a heroin overdose in Brisbane in 1997. He was only 33 years old.
Only after his death was his troubled personal history revealed. He had been a victim of sexual abuse by a house master and football coach while he was in his early teens at boarding school.
Bennett recalls his last meeting with Jackson in which the former player said he had been having some counselling.
“He said it’s helped me see the big picture for the first time in my life, but it really scares me, you know.”
ABC News 24 presenter Joe O’Brien, Jackson’s brother-in-law, said he was a different man in his private life than he was on the field.
“There is the popular image of Peter Jackson as someone so strong…but it’s a stunning case of the debilitating nature of abuse and how this can cut anyone down, no matter who they are.”
Now, there is a happier sequel unfolding 20 years on in the classrooms of a remote Indigenous community.
For the last year, Jackson’s widow Siobhan has been principal of the Lockhart River School, working on the educational front line in an Indigenous community that faces its share of addiction and abuse issues.
She is credited with improving attendance rates and with introducing initiatives that have broken down racial barriers.
Peter Jackson was always a promising sportsman – right from his school days.
However while he was shining in public as a rising star on the rugby union field, he was privately falling victim to a paedophile, a former Marist brother called Hugh “Ossie” McNamara.
McNamara was not only Jackson’s footy coach, but his boarding master as well.
When Jackson was aged fourteen, McNamara started sexual abuse which continued for over a year.