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Sadly, 2006 ended on a sour note when I had my first brushes with the law. I was suddenly making good money and, as young blokes do, I wanted to spend it. I went out and one of the first things I bought was a bright orange Nissan Skyline.


One weekend shortly before Christmas, Mum and Dad went on a trip away to Batemans Bay so I had some mates around for a party out at their property.


We all had a bit too much to drink and before too long, one of my mates took the car for a spin around the neighbourhood. Soon afterwards I did the same, probably driving a bit too quick but not causing any accidents. I put the car back in the garage and we got on with the partying and the drinking.


About 20 minutes later, a couple of cops knocked on the door and asked if I had been driving the car. They said some neighbours had recognised me driving a bit erratically and reported it to them. They took me down to the police station and breathalysed me there, and of course I was over the limit.


They didn’t breathalyse me at the scene or at the time I was driving, so I probably could have had the charges thrown out, but I was still a naive kid and next thing I knew, they’d tossed me in a cell for a few hours.


It was dark by the time Mum and Dad arrived at the cop shop to bail me out. That was the thing I felt worst about: I had ruined their holiday and they had to come home early to get their son out of jail.


I expected Dad to give me a clip over the ear for being such a goose but it never came. He was relatively cool about it all and, looking back, that should have been my first warning sign that something wasn’t quite right with him.



Dad was always very strict with me and quick to jump all over me when I screwed up, but the hiding I was expecting never came. As a result, I thought I could get away with stuff and the worst period of my life entered full swing.


I appeared in court at Goulburn and was fined $2000 and banned from driving for five years as well as being placed on a three-year good behaviour bond. Luckily for me, I only registered a mid-range blood alcohol level of 0.145.


The magistrate said that if I had gone over 0.15, just one more beer, I would have landed in jail. ‘If you had returned a high-range reading, I would have had no hesitation in sending you to jail,’ Magistrate Geraldine Beattie told me.


But for all this, there were still few consequences for my actions from the man I feared and respected most, my dad. I tried to walk the right line and most of the time I did, but I had lapses and my actions began to snowball, particularly when I was on the drink with my mates.


I was not proud of it, and I did some idiotic and reckless things that embarrassed both myself and my family and painted the Raiders and footy in general in a bad light. But I had an immature attitude and seemed intent on self-destruction.


I’m not looking for excuses – I’ve got no one to blame but myself. I should have known better, but I was a silly kid who achieved success all too easily and early, and with my dad’s mind fading away, I didn’t get the guidance I needed …


Around this time the Raiders realised I had some serious issues to cope with and sent me to counselling. It helped a little to have someone to vent to. I remember I had so much stuff bottled up inside and my first session lasted four hours.


Dad had been diagnosed with dementia a couple of months earlier. He was only in his 50s and it was a shock to everyone. We knew something was wrong and he was slipping away from us. I had trouble accepting it and I think I was in denial.


Mum had taken him to a doctor, who said it was a mid-life crisis and that we shouldn’t worry. Dad used to call me several times a day to talk footy, but over a short space of time he went into his shell, his own little world, and didn’t ring at all.


Again, I’m not making excuses, but stuff like that is hard when it is not just your dad but your coach, mentor and role model all rolled into one.


Mum really saved me from going crazy during the time I was barred from playing, and would ring literally every half hour to make sure I was okay. She knew what a toll it was taking on me and was determined to get her son over this hurdle and help get my life back on track.





The 2008 season and year as a whole was a disaster for me. Dad died at the age of just 57, and I went into a downward spiral. Seeing him deteriorate from a healthy, happy man into a shell of a person broke all our hearts.


Dementia is a horrible disease and I feel for all the families affected by it, like mine was. He was my coach and mentor from the age of six to 16 and made me the player I was by pushing me to my limits. It was awful losing him but I think he is still looking over me, and in big games I felt his spirit pushed me that little bit harder, bringing out the best in me.


I can see now that I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe I’d lost my dad at such a young age and felt he had been cut down in his prime. Coming on top of Pop dying a couple of years earlier, it was a terrible double blow and I’d lost the two men who meant most to me. Pop was like my stress relief – when footy and Dad got too intense, we’d go fishing and I’d de-stress. We had a special relationship.


I can’t remember either funeral – I just blocked them out, it was such a horrible time.


A lot of the dumb things I did happened around the time of Dad’s sickness and eventual death. The Raiders had treated all my punishments as alcohol-related, when the deep core was the trauma from Dad. These days, there are all sorts of mental health programs for players like me who go off the rails.


But back then, there was nothing concrete like that set up and I found myself pretty much left to fend for myself. Like I’ve said many times, I’m not making excuses. I was young and reckless and have to put my hand up for my own irresponsible actions. Most of them revolved around alcohol, and without footy I went over the top with my drinking and, as a result, I was a loose cannon.





There’s very little about my life that doesn’t attract criticism from the wise guys out there – and that includes my tattoos. I may have gone overboard with them a bit, but they are expressions of who I am and what I believe in.


They are a bit like my life itself – a bit messy and disorganised, and every time I make a rash decision in my life, it is often reflected in my next tattoo.


I got my first one when I was still a teenager in Canberra – my nanna took me to get it. It was just my name on my forearm. I regret it a bit now because it’s there for life, but there are others I am happier about. When I got home with that first one, I thought Mum would flip out when she saw it. But she was fine with it and, ever since, I’ve been slowly but surely collecting them to the stage where there aren’t too many tatt-free places on my body anymore!


Most reflect the things I believe in, such as family and enjoying life. I’ve got my parents’ initials behind each ear and my two sisters’ names printed on my wrists – they are never far from my heart. After Dad died, I got the saying ‘Always in my mind, forever in my heart’ tattooed on my hands so when I looked at them, I would always think of him. And I put the day he was born and the day he died on my chest. I’ve also got Dad’s name, Daryl, on my neck.


On my chest are the words ‘This too shall pass’, just to remind me that the tough times, when you feel the whole world is against you, won’t last forever. If you can ride them out, you will be stronger for it – I’ve had plenty of experience with that.


The biggest tatt I’ve got is on my back – an angel with wings spread and its head in its hands. It sums up the mix of emotions and feelings you experience in life, I guess.


There is one tattoo I have planned – the cancer symbol. Mum is getting the same one, as a statement for both of us that she had cancer and kicked its arse.


She is one tough lady and I’m so proud of the way she got through that battle and want to have it somewhere on my body for all to see.


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