“So I took a bounce, and uncle Frank was coming … his socks down and he had the gnarly old elbows, knees as hard as a goat’s head and he had the false teeth out. And I put the ball in front of his eyes, and the only thing I failed to react to was …” (Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley)
IN the spirit of grand final fever this week, St Kilda legend and AFL media personality Danny Frawley shared a ripper story about playing in his only grand final as a 16-year-old for Bungaree during a CT Connections AFL grand final lunch at The Blackman hotel on Monday.
What made the story all the more special was it involved his father, Brian Frawley, who passed away last Saturday aged 82. His life was celebrated by the Ballarat community at a funeral on Wednesday for the district potato farmer, Stawell Gift winner and stalwart of many organisations in the region.
Spud, as he’s affectionately known, placed his leather jacket and helmet on a couch while dragging a chair to prime position at the intimate lunch event in front of about 30 special guests for the CT Connections event.
“Forgive me for being a little bit dishevelled,” the former Saints skipper and star said. “I’ve just come back from Bungaree. It’s a funny old place, about 200 people who live in Bungaree, it has one pub, and I’ll give you a little bit of background about the Frawley name and heritage,” he began.
“My father passed away on Saturday. It’s sad, but it’s a great celebration because the last three or four years he’d had dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was a tough time during that period but he had a great life … he was one of 11 kids.”
Frawley told the captivated audience how his great great grandparents, Joe and Bridget, arrived in Port Fairy after a long journey from Tipperary in Ireland, “jumped on a horse and went riding and found this place called Bungaree at the foot of Mount Warrenheip near Kryall Castle”.
“So they thought it was a bit like Ireland, freezing cold, wet, windy and very hot in the summer hence it grows pretty good spuds,” he explained.
“Dad grew up there and went to St Patrick’s (College) and was a great athlete. He was looking for a wife and as you do in those days, you have to make sure they like farm life because you’re just born and bred to work on the farm. So he had to cross the railway line to Springbank which was three miles away from Bungaree and he married mum, who was a Quinlan and also one of 11. So I was born 121st cousin and all were mad Irishmen. So Wednesday’s celebration of Dad’s life will be interesting,” he added with a sentimental smile.
It didn’t take long before the high profile media personality with Triple M and Fox Footy had the lunch guests in stitches with some first-class storytelling, touching on a little classic Irish-Australian humour.
“I can remember we cremated one of our uncles about four years ago and it took about four days to put him out because he was that full of alcohol,” he said, before softening a little. “The Irish wakes are sad times but end up a celebration of a life.”
Growing up in Bungaree was all about playing footy for the local club, according to Frawley, which had a deeper connection on many layers including bloodlines. He shared a funny grand final memory from when he was a mere teenager carving his path on a footy field among very familiar faces.
“Was funny growing up, all I wanted to do was play for Bungaree with my four older brothers,” he said. “We’ve got eight kids in our family and Dad was president. For about two years I played in the Under 16s and captained them, had a spell in the reserves and then played in the seniors on the wing.
“In the seniors it was easy to get a kick because my older brothers played, as well as five uncles, two cousins and four brothers-in-law, so more than half the team were Frawleys.”
“When I was 16 I captained the junior team and played Springbank, where mum was from, and we won the premiership. We played Springbank in the seniors, too, and I learnt a pretty good lesson that day.
“I was really excited, because at Christmas functions, weddings etc you’d have a kick to kick at some stage, and not only was I playing with half my relations, I was playing against four of mum’s brothers, who were my uncles, six first cousins and a second cousin I didn’t really know the name of because I had that many first cousins.
“So I thought this was going to be a great day, but I hadn’t had a kick before quarter time in the senior grand final. I said to my older brother Michael, who is the father of James Frawley who plays for Hawthorn, and I said “what about a kick?”, and he said, “Stand over there, Boofhead.”
“I thought if the world stops now I’m going to die a happy man because I’ve already played in a premiership in the morning and I’ve kicked a goal on the wing with my mates and against a lot of my relations,” he remembered.
“And just before quarter time I got cheeky and said to my brother Michael, ‘How about another kick?” and he said, “Over there”, and sure enough I got the ball and I was about 80m from goal and my uncle, Frank Quinlan, was full back.
“He was about 35 and I was 16 and I thought not only am I going to kick my second goal in the first quarter, I’m gonna make a fool out of Uncle Frank! So I took a bounce, and uncle Frank was coming and I’ll never forget it … his socks were down and he had the gnarly old elbows, knees as hard as a goat’s head, and he had the false teeth out, and I put the ball in front of his eyes and the only thing I failed to react to was the elbow that caved my right cheekbone in.
“And as you know now in AFL footy you have sports scientists and conditioning coaches and you’ve got chaplains, you name it, you have a lot of support staff. In those days in Bungaree, Red Forbes was a full time vet and he was also our full time doctor, conditioning coach, and it didn’t matter whatever happened, he always had a five-gallon bucket of Dencorub.
“So it didn’t matter whether you had piles, your eye hanging out – the Dencorub would get rubbed on any part, so you didn’t want to get a kick in the pills, I can tell ya! I can remember waking up at quarter time and I don’t know whether you’ve ever been knocked out, but, it was a great memory, and all I could hear was my father saying, ‘I’ll kill ya, ya bastard,’ and Dad was president, obviously. He was running around the ground at quarter time trying to knock out his brother-in-law, my uncle Frank who caved my cheekbone in, and Dad did a hammy trying to catch him!
“So I don’t remember the grand final, but I had a couple of beers at the Bungaree pub last night and I looked up on the walls and I was young in the photos. They all call me young fella, actually, and I’m pretty old now, but in those days I was the youngster.
“They were great memories.”
CT Connections in conjunction with Virgin Australia and The Blackman (Art Series Hotel Group) thank Danny Frawely for being our special guest.
CT Connections is the AFL’s travel management partner. #everyconnectioncounts