When Aaron Hamill woke to the crushing reality of Danny Frawley’s death, he felt like pulling on the storied No.2 guernsey he was honoured to share with the St Kilda legend.
Like so many in the AFL community, the former star forward and current Saints assistant coach was still coming to terms with Frawley’s death when he spoke on Tuesday to reporters.
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.
“I felt like putting it on this morning,” an emotional Hamill said of the No.2 guernsey he wore for 98 games.
“If you learn anything from the history of past players, it’s that no one owns it. You lease the jumper and what you do in it is critical.
“You represent so many people – not just yourself.
“Clearly, it was a huge honour.
“We talk to our young guys about ‘What legacy are you going to leave on the jumper?’
“And (wearing his number) was one thing that I wore close to my heart.”
Hamill choked back tears as he spoke of the lasting impact Frawley had on everyone he came in contact with, not just at St Kilda but in the wider community.
Well known for his exploits on the field, then as a coach and media personality, the larger-than-life character became a strong advocate for mental health issues when he revealed his own battle with depression.
“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,” Hawthorn president and former Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett told the Seven Network.
“But it really got him down.
“… 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.”
St Kilda legend Nicky Winmar joined the steady procession of grieving fans paying their respects on Tuesday at the club’s Moorabbin headquarters.
A makeshift shrine was set up outside the club’s the main entry, with floral tributes, scarves and guernseys left by fans.
There were even a few potatoes in honour of the man affectionately known as ‘Spud’, who grew up on a potato farm in Bungaree near Ballarat.
Inside the club’s foyer, photos of Frawley taken during his 240-game career were played on a continuous loop on the display screens dominating the room.
A clearly emotional Winmar stopped at the shrine outside the doors before quietly taking in a memorial set up in a display case in the club’s Hall of Fame.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews added to the chorus of tributes on Tuesday morning.
“This is a really sad thing … he was not only a champion footballer but a champion bloke,” Andrews said.
“He very bravely spoke about some of the challenges that he faced, as so many people have, and particularly in recent times.
“I think that every day, there are clear reminders and calls to action to do more to support those in our community who live with mental illness.”
The father of three turned 56 on Sunday.
Renowned as one of the AFL’s great full-backs, Frawley played 240 games for St Kilda from 1984-95.
He captained the Saints for 177 games, then a club record.
Frawley coached Richmond for five years, taking them to a 2001 preliminary final.
He is survived by his wife Anita and daughters Chelsea, Danielle and Keeley.
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