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RIP Spud. Football, family & loss.

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

When I read 'RIP Spud Frawley' on a friends FB post, I assumed another club had sacked another coach at the end of the season. As a player and a coach, Spud had seen a few losses in his time, so it wouldn't have shocked me to see the news of a club letting him go. I quickly googled and am in shock to hear of his death. It seems this is how most of us get our breaking news now, from social media. If you were a St.Kilda FC supporter in the 80's & 90's there were not a lot of victories. Our captain from 87-95 was one of the greats that everyone seemed to love on and off the field. I've always joked that my mother has done me a favour by raising me as a St.Kilda supporter because I know that life isn't fair and you learn to deal with disappointment from a very young age. But when you do have success, you can REALLY savour it! However those long drives from Wonthaggi to Moorabin and Waverley Park and back again were never great on the way home defeat after defeat. I wore Tony Lockett's original number 14 on the back of my wooly Saints jumper, I still have it and it still fits with its overly large floppy collar. I adored Trevor Barker, Nathan Burke, Nicky 'Elvis' Winmar, Stewart Loewe, Robert Harvey... the list goes on. Danny Frawley was the cement that held it all together. He was a rock in a team of showponies and flamboyant social stars. The tough potato farmer who led the team. Sadly, it was an era of many defeats. I mean, the club has won one premiership in it's entire history since 1987! It's been a long era! At the same time watching the saints lose, I was playing junior football with Kilcunda-Bass and we had a similar path losing most matches in a season to the much bigger kids who grew up on the potato farms. When I didn't even have hair under my arms or in my crotch yet, these kids had facial hair and were twice my size. The rare occasion we'd win a match was playing against Loch. They were so undermanned that when it came to game time, our team gave them players to make up numbers so that the match would go ahead. I was a tiny kid so they gave me to them. The thing I loved about that was that Loch's team colours were the same as St.Kilda, so even though I was playing against my own team, I got to wear my Saints jumper. And my brothers enjoyed it because they got to tackle me into the mud and sit on me and it was all fair. In a team that lost all the time, the one time we'd get to win a match, I was forced to play on the opposition teams team of losers. But I got to wear my saints colours and that was cool. Living most of my adult life overseas, I've drifted away from following football, but I'll always cherish growing up a footy fan. I was die hard as a kid. These guys were my heroes. Going to shopping centres to get autographs, lining up at grand final parades, hanging outside the gates at games, running onto the ground after games to meet the players, hanging over the fence to touch them, having kick to kick on the ground after a game. I have Danny Frawley's autograph in my book at home somewhere in a shoe box. I remember going to his final match in 1995 at Whitten Oval against Footscray. Trevor Barker was at that match and I got a photo with him or his autograph then too, it's buried away in a shoebox somewhere too, it wasn't long before he passed away. I was very blonde and my mum was a big fan of his, I spread the rumour that I could be his love child. I would take 'specky's' in the school yard just like my "old man". Our record of losses were on par. Being at Danny Frawley's final match was overly emotional. He ran through the banner with his little girl, he was chaired off the ground, a hero on the shoulders of other heroes. We all ran out on the ground and surrounded him. Players, teammates, opposition players, fans, family and friends. I was with my family, dad was a Footscray supporter, mum a Saint. We suffered a lot of losses as fans, but that day was so special. There wasn't a dry eye at the stadium. When the newspaper published the photo of him and his daughter, we had it framed and it sits in mum's kitchen still. Just looking at that photo brings back so many great memories from my childhood. I'm deeply saddened to learn of his death. When people post about losing someone they didn't personally know, the internet likes to jump on them because we didn't actually know them. It's not always about that, its much deeper. He was a part of my youth, he is a link to my family and makes me appreciate right now, sitting on the other side of the world, the sacrifices my mother and father made to give their kids a good upbringing. After taking us to junior footy, mum would drive to Melbourne to a game, carry all our sandwiches and snacks loaded up like a camel with the rugs and the thermos while we ran around kicking the footy between parked cars. Dad was a great footballer, a captain, coach, club secretary, president, barman and a life member at the club we were part of. We probably didn't say thank you or appreciate it at the time, but now I do. Football was about family and community growing up and I met some lifelong mates and I'm glad that I experienced it. Spud Frawley won't go down in history as a record breaker or hold titles like others in the world, but in my lifetime, he was a legend. RIP. x

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