Club legend Jim O'Keefe showed Mark Robinson around the Bungaree Demons Football Club, where Danny played as a youngster. Picture Jay Town
Club legend Jim O'Keefe showed Mark Robinson around the Bungaree Demons Football Club, where Danny played as a youngster. Picture Jay Town

Robinson: How Bungaree will remember its favourite son

Jim O'Keefe waves his arm towards centre half-forward at Bungaree's footy ground and smiles.

"Just over there," the 69-year-old O'Keefe said.

"Danny's first game. He was 16. We were playing Clunes. Danny was playing at centre half-forward and someone gave him a biff - his cousin Shane took it very unkindly. The guy who hit Danny found himself on the ground very quickly.

"He whacked him and said 'don't you do that to my cousin'. You could do that those days. It was a good one."

It was 1979 and Jim was still playing for Bungaree.

The club's games record holder, a five-time best and fairest winner and three-time league B&F winner, Jim knows a lot about the Frawleys.

"(Danny) was skinny kid," Jim said. "He always had a bit of charisma about him. You know, he played junior football just like he played league football.

 

Danny Frawley at his parents' Bungaree home, helping out with the harvest, in 1985.
Danny Frawley at his parents' Bungaree home, helping out with the harvest, in 1985.

 

"He hated being beaten. If someone beat him, he'd nearly cry. He was emotional then, too. That was Danny.

"Being the youngest of three boys, he was taught, s--- you know, you've got win. He was a real softie. It was his nature. It was the way he was."

Before fortune and glory at St Kilda, there was Bungaree, a small, tired town of 200 people just off the highway to Ballarat. There's one road in and one road out.

On the left is the old primary school, the general store, the old Morning Star hotel. On the right the church, the footy ground, the old hall and, in between, a smattering of homes. At the end of town, on the right is the Bridge Hotel and the old Catholic school and church. On other days, there might be a hustle and bustle, but not on Tuesday.

"Everyone's lost," Jim said.

Blokes were up early, mind you, which is a country trait, but they had to be at the general store, which opened at 7am.

"We got the paper," Jim said. "There were about eight blokes, all in tears. It was terrible. I was knackered. Just tears ... dumbfounded. When you see blokes like Jonathan Brown in tears ...

"Everything's different today. You don't realise how quickly things can change, just (Jim clicks his fingers) … here one minute, gone the next. It will never be the same, it never is."

Jim didn't know what to do on Tuesday, so he went to the footy club. It is a typical country footy ground - wide, with winter's lush, and tall pines ringing half the ground.

One end is known as the town end, the other the highway end and as a monument to yesteryear.

The old scoreboard still stands, Bungaree and Visitors.

The weather was still, but it would be frightfully cold in May and June. "It tests the boys out from the men," Jim said.

Jim was one of the first at the ground. He was beaten by three other locals, who were sweeping the standing room area outside the front of the Danny Frawley Pavilion. It had to be perfect and clean for the photos of Frawley and his various jumpers now on display. And they knew the media was coming.

 

Club legend Jim O'Keefe at the Bungaree Football Club, where Danny played as a youngster. Pic: Jay Town
Club legend Jim O'Keefe at the Bungaree Football Club, where Danny played as a youngster. Pic: Jay Town

 

THE FAMILY

Jim knew all the Frawleys, who he said grew up just out of town. "Turn right out of here, go up the road, turn left after the pub, go up about 2km, turn right, go along the road, and there's Danny's place, right under the mountain," Jim said.

He agreed to jump in the car.

"We had some funny nights when Danny's dad was president, believe me," Jim said. "On the left there, that was all Frawley ground, that was Danny's uncle's place, on the right the Torpys' place … and just down there on the left is the famous Possum Gully where Danny spent a lot of time drinking grog after everything in town closed down. Every young kid in Bungaree spent time down there drinking. Every young footballer who played for Bungaree was initiated down there and had a drink.

"Cold nights, bonfire and in summer, they'd bring sofas down and sit around.

"Danny was in his glory down there, drinking and talking bulls---. We all did. It was just a tradition. I tell you, I reckon a few kids were conceived there, too."

Then we were at the house, a white weatherboard with a picket fence, near the base of Mt Warrenheip.

"We had a lot of fun here," Jim said. "Danny was only a kid, and he'd run around with a footy, kicking the footy into blokes legs and giving cheek.

"There's their old stables and, up a bit further, there's the McGuane house, where Mick's dad was brought up."

Cheeky as a kid, and a prankster and storyteller as an adult. That's what we know of Frawley.

Bungaree Demons life members Darren Rix and Jayson Frawley at the club on Tuesday. Pic: Jay Town
Bungaree Demons life members Darren Rix and Jayson Frawley at the club on Tuesday. Pic: Jay Town

THE DANNYS

As a junior footballer, he was a star. The honour board in the rooms shows Frawley won the club's under-15 best and fairest and consecutive B&Fs in the under-18s.

He joined East Point in the Ballarat Football League before joining St Kilda in 1984.

"Danny at 16 was a villain, believe me," Jim said.

"Him and Danny Quinlan, they were cousins. How can I explain it? Whenever there was a bit of mischief going on Danny Frawley and Danny Quinlan were right in the middle of it."

One night in the old hall, the Dannys ran off the stage and double somersaulted onto the floor. One of them, though, did half a somersault, landed on his head and dislocated a shoulder. "That was the Dannys," Jim said.

 

 

Danny Frawley's name sits proudly on the club’s honour board. Pic: Jay Town
Danny Frawley's name sits proudly on the club’s honour board. Pic: Jay Town

 

 

ST KILDA DAYS

When Frawley was first at the Saints, a bus load of Bungaree boys would drive Sunday mornings to Moorabbin, drink a skin-full and have someone sober drive them back Sunday night.

The toilet stops were frequent and boozy.

The Frawleys are Bungaree royalty.

Two of them, uncle Maurice and brother Mick, made the Bungaree Team of the Century. But Danny didn't.

Danny didn't make the 50-game qualification. He didn't worry, though.

The premiership of 1976 was a family affair with only one player in the team not born in Bungaree.

Brian was president that year and Mick the star full-forward. On Grand Final day, then Saints coach Allen Jeans came to watch Mick play.

Bungaree played Springbank and it was a bloodbath. Mick got clobbered before the bounce. Still, Bungaree won and that's all that counted.

Frawley loved his hometown club and the club loved him. Earlier this year he brought Robert Harvey, Jason Dunstall and Brian Taylor to Bungaree for a fundraiser - barefoot bowls and beers the order of the day.

 

O'Keefe in front of the scoreboard at Bungaree. Pic: Jay Town
O'Keefe in front of the scoreboard at Bungaree. Pic: Jay Town

 

Every time he returned, Frawley would light up the rooms. He'd talk to all the kids, ask them their name, and have a kick. In their eyes, they were meeting a legend.

He was one of six kids - Christine, Michael, Tony, Anne, Danny and Marita in that order - and they all married locally.

Frawley's mum now lives in Ballarat. His dad Brian died a couple of years back.

"She (his mum) has been struggling a bit, but she's a great lady. This will knock her for six," Jim said.

Jim was at home on Monday night when his son Chris called him and said there had been a car accident.

"I said, no, it couldn't be Danny. It was. I couldn't believe it. Everybody is just numb," he said.

Jim, like everyone, knew of Frawley's depression,

"It's terrible it's all finished up this way, you know, his kids, and wife. I know they weren't going great, but that's another story. You just feel helpless.

"Last night I wanted to watch the footy shows. That helped a lot. I just sat there and cried. It was hard going.

"Everybody thinks 'what could we have done to help?', but it happens doesn't it?

"It's a disease and I'm glad we're starting to talk about it."

 

Saints fans head to the club’s headquarters to pay their respects to Frawley. Pic: Getty Images
Saints fans head to the club’s headquarters to pay their respects to Frawley. Pic: Getty Images

 

THE MEMORIES

There were no official plans on Tuesday, but Jim expected the town to gather to have a drink in the rooms later in the night.

"I've spoken to people this morning and nobody knows what to do," he said.

"I don't know if we'll meet here tonight and have a couple of beers or not. Maybe we're waiting for someone to say 'let's go have a few beers'.

"That's probably the best way to grieve.

"Talk about it, have a few beers at the footy club. Just being together and talking, it helps get rid of the grief.

"You know, the footy club is the heartbeat of this town."

 

mark.robinson@news.com.au @Robbo_HeraldSun

Frawley became a champion defender and leader at the Saints.
Frawley became a champion defender and leader at the Saints.
News Corp Australia


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