The former St Kilda captain was killed when his vehicle slammed into a tree near Ballarat, Victoria, just before 1.30pm on September 9, 2019 – a day after his 56th birthday.
He was declared dead at the scene, leaving behind his wife Anita, and three daughters Chelsea, Keeley, and Danielle – who all appeared at Marvel Stadium for the round two clash and the inaugural ‘Spud’s Game: Time 2 Talk’.
The new mental health initiative, 18 months on from his tragic death, is urging everyone, particularly men, to reach out and speak up about their mental health.
Danny Frawley’s wife Anita Frawley (second right), and three daughters Chelsea (left), Keeley (second left) and Danielle Frawley (right) pose for a photo during the 2021 AFL Round 02 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Melbourne Demons at Marvel Stadium on March 27, 2021 in Melbourne
Players, umpires and officials form a circle in memory of the late Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley
Garry Lyon, Tony Lockett and Stewart Loewe address players and the crowd in honour of Danny Frawley
As part of the touching scenes, players and umpires stood side-by-side in a circle in the centre of the field while fellow AFL stars and mates of Frawley, Garry Lyon and Stewart Loewe, addressed the crowd.
‘It’s a time to talk,’ Lyon said. ‘If you’ve got an issue at home, if you’ve got a problem, if you think there’s something that needs to be said — we are encouraging you tonight to talk, and that’s what Spud would have wanted you to do.’
The match was delayed by two minutes to encourage those watching to check in on their mates.
Anita, and Frawley’s three daughters watched on from the boundary line as the stadium lights dimmed.
In the lead up to the game Mrs Frawley revealed she had no idea the footy great was suffering in silence.
She said there were ‘subtle changes’ in her husband’s mood that ‘he couldn’t recognise’ leading up to his suicide.
The Frawley end signage is lit by a spotlight during the 2021 AFL Round 02 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Melbourne Demons at Marvel Stadium on March 27, 2021 in Melbourne
As part of the touching scenes players and umpires stood side by side in a circle in the centre of the field while fellow AFL stars and mates of Frawley, Garry Lyon and Stewart Loewe, addressed the crowd
‘It’s a time to talk,’ Gary Lyon said. ‘If you’ve got an issue at home, if you’ve got a problem, if you think there’s something that needs to be said — we are encouraging you tonight to talk, and that’s what Spud would have wanted you to do.’
‘I had no idea, I just didn’t know that he was suffering or what was going on. You sit there in your marriage and try to protect everything, so he obviously hid it for a while, but then he had this complete breakdown,’ she told the Herald Sun.
‘But Danny was slightly different because when he had his breakdown it was a complete breakdown, there was no sleep or whatever, but neither one of us really knew what was kind of going on.’
The horrors of that fateful September evening are ‘still so raw and emotional’ to Mrs Frawley – as she encouraged others that it’s ‘OK to come out’ and ‘be vulnerable’.
Mrs Frawley said even though mental health struggles can be ‘turned around’ with the ‘right help and medication’, people need to continue to seek guidance and reach out to others.
She said the ‘Time 2 Talk’ message was crucial for getting people to open up and share how they were feeling.
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten revealed the club has ‘a little bit of Spud in everything we do’, as he remembers his friend’s legacy.
Dubbed Spud’s Game: Time 2 Talk – the new mental health initiative 18 months on from his tragic death is urging everyone, particularly men, to reach and speak up about their mental health
Almost 18 months since the death Danny Frawley (pictured second from right, with his daughters and partner), his wife said it’s been a ‘raw and emotional’ time for the family
The message of encouraging greater conversations for those experiencing challenges or mental health issues is one Ratten actively tries to implement with his team.
‘We want people to come out and talk about their situation, which you have to have the courage to do. But it is also about knocking on the door of those who are struggling,’ he said.
He understands that sometimes it might to not until the ’10th time they actually answer’ and reveal they aren’t doing well.
Even when Ratten was sacked from as Carlton’s coach in 2012, he said Frawley went beyond his role as CEO of the AFL Coaches’ Association to ‘reach out and make sure I was OK’.
Ratten said the AFL industry can become a high-pressure environment, but clubs need to keep an eye on individuals’ mental and physical health.
Spud’s Game: Time 2 Talk is designed to tackle mental health issues within the community through a special tribute match in Round 2, in honour of the late Danny Frawley (pictured)
After his 16-year-old son Cooper was killed in a car crash in 2016, Ratten said he saw the power of the footy community as they rallied behind his family helped them through their grief.
The devastating loss made inquiring about the welfare of his team a priority for the coach, as he admits ‘life isn’t easy sometimes’.
Frawley, nicknamed Spud because he grew up on a potato farm, played 240 games for St Kilda before coaching Richmond to the 2001 preliminary final.
He was St Kilda’s longest serving captain until Nick Riewoldt eclipsed his record in 2014.
He went on to commentate the AFL for Triple M, Fox Sports, SEN and the Nine Network – as well as work part-time as a defensive coach with his beloved Saints.
If you or anyone you know is in need of mental health support you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten (pictured) revealed the club has ‘a little bit of spud in everything we do’, as he remembers his friend’s legacy