Bassat also said there was a need for more research on the impact of concussion, calling the concussion side of Frawley’s story “a worry”. Frawley had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) the degenerative brain condition linked brain trauma at the time of his death, according to an examination by the Australian Sports Brain Bank.
“Danny’s loss still is felt very keenly by everyone at the club one year later,” Bassat told The Age. “An incredibly sad day to have to remember this and hasn’t been forgotten at all.
“I think both in terms of acknowledging Danny at the appropriate time as well as finding a way to better look after our past players, look after our community, are very much on the agenda.”
Bassat described Frawley as a larger-than-life figure who personified St Kilda and left an “enormous legacy” behind.
The St Kilda president was joined by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan in paying tribute to Frawley on the anniversary of his death.
“Danny was an incredible captain and player and he was one of those heart-and-soul guys after he finished as a player,” Bassat said. “He was kind of the growth – and you heard this from other past players at his funeral – just how much Danny brought people together, how much Danny personified St Kilda.
“In many ways, the best of St Kilda. So that enormous legacy, that larger-than-life character who cared so much for the club and gave so much, who was taken way too early.
“And then you’ve also got the related issues of what went wrong for Danny and the need for whole industry to do a better job.
“I think there’s two very big headings and if we find a way to bring those two together, that would be great.”
Bassat said there was a need for more research and an improved understanding of concussion in light of Frawley’s death.
“Yeah, the concussion part is clearly a worry. I haven’t yet understood enough to, I haven’t yet got to the bottom of it. But clearly there’s a connection with concussion, which many players have suffered in their career, it’s something you need a whole lot more research on, a much greater understanding of, to minimise the chance that other people suffer.”
Bassat suggested that a formal recognition of Frawley was among the off-field goals that the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed. “There’s a few things that … will probably happen next year.”
AFL chief executive McLachlan, a St Kilda supporter who knew Frawley well, said Frawley’s wife Anita had made clear that the family wanted the AFL to learn from Danny Frawley’s experiences. Anita Frawley informed McLachlan of Frawley’s CTE diagnosis some time ago.
“Danny Frawley was a life member of the AFL, as the time he gave to the game as a player and coach with St Kilda and Richmond reflected both the dedication and skill needed to succeed and endure at the highest level,” McLachlan said.
“Away from the field and in life, he gave so much more with his engaging personality in his many roles of husband, father, son, brother, friend and media performer, and also reached so many more people with his message encouraging people, to particularly men, to reach out and check in on each other and seek help when needed.
“Anita has been really clear that the family want us as a code and as a community to keep learning from Danny’s experience and we will honour his memory by continuing to do that.”
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Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.