When the news came that AFL legend, Danny Frawley died in a car crash, the footy world as a whole, went into shock. The image of the car wreck hit the very core of every footy fan across the spectrum of the footy world. Also, this week we saw the unveiling of the statue of the iconic display that trusted Tayla Harris into the spotlight not just in Australia but around the world.
Why these two moments are significant is because they both have garnished a reaction from everyone in footy. The reactions have been mixed for both and I don’t think some really understand the significance of these events.
If you looked at a dictionary of the meaning of “larrikin” in the Macquarie Dictionary, you would see that it is a defined as a mischievous young person, a lout or hoodlum, but in essence, it is defined as an uncultivated, rowdy, but good-hearted person. Danny Frawley was the epitome of what the word larrikin implies – he was the Aussie lout, hoodlum, a mischievous, rowdy but good-hearted person.
Across the AFL world, those who knew him loved him and those who only knew him from his roles in the media…loved him as well. He was happy to laugh at others, but also at himself, yet he had his demons and was brave enough to come out and state to the sometimes-unforgiving sporting world, his battles with depression and anxiety.
In the world of sport and the AFL, for an ex-player, ex-coach and a man who had the world at his feet, this was significant and it should serve as a huge warning to current players, coaches and others in the footy world.
The AFL has hired a person to head a Mental Health department and clubs are now looking more and more into having the necessary people and procedures available to them in order to assist players/coaches that are struggling, but that is not enough, for the players and coaches have to want to be helped.
Players and coaches alike must see past their paycheques and the glory that comes with being in the AFL as if they don’t, then they are heading down a path where it can be taken away so quickly. Indiscretions, drugs, alcohol, a career-ending injury and even saying “I’m ok” when you are not, can make a star fall from grace or given choice but to retire from the game.
I know that in this current climate there are huge issues with drugs and alcohol being rampant in our society. On the website Beyond Blue, they state that drugs and alcohol can cause the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. But the catch-22 is that some use these very apparatus to cope.
The larrikin has been typically attributed to the Aussie notion of “she’ll be right mate” and so the men of our world bottle up their feelings, hiding behind the mask of the attributes of the larrikin. When it all comes crashing down, they feel despondent and unmanly and there are some people who still hold to that theory, that they are unmanly, and they don’t really see the bigger picture. Which leads me to Tayla Harris and the statue.
Malcolm Blight has come out and stated that he thinks it is ridiculous that a statue has been made and placed at Federation Square about a footballer who was trolled on social media. A lot of callers on SEN agreed with Blight.
The issue though in part was about the trolls on social media, but it was Channel 7’s reaction when they pulled the picture because of the trolls and then faced a massive backlash for that and subsequently, put it back up. The trolls targeted Harris because of her agility and incredible athleticism and because Harris is a female, the comments made were derogatory and sexist.
This would not have happened had it been a male in that same position. The statue is about empowerment not only of female athletes but of the right of females to be seen not because they are female, but of what they are capable of.
Nicky Winmar raised his guernsey to show the colour of his skin because he wanted to empower the plight of the Indigenous people in our country. Tayla Harris was thrust into the spotlight because of a few idiots on social media and a TV station that decided that because of the trolls, a photo that epitomises everything we love about sport, should be taken down. The backlash empowered people to show the inequalities shown our sporting world.
Danny Frawley came out to say he was struggling with depression and anxiety. This announcement empowered not only himself but other men who are also struggling and to allow them to come to terms with that and say to the world – I’m not ok.
Both Frawley and Harris should be celebrated for what they have achieved and empowered. I have met Tayla Harris and had never met Danny Frawley, but I have a huge love and admiration for both who have empowered society in very different ways.