Ceremony marks anniversary of Rip tragedy

Fit to serve: Commandoes trained extensively in their kayaks. Picture: Supplied

A MEMORIAL “pilgrimage” conducted at Queenscliff last week has special relevance to families living on the Mornington Peninsula.

It marked the date 60 years ago when three young Army commandoes lost their lives in a training exercise while crossing The Rip, 17 February 1960.

A ceremony marking the tragedy was held at Shortlands Bluff, Sunday 16 February.

Soldiers involved in the exercise still living on the Mornington Peninsula are Bob Dunball, Dave Gilder, Leigh Power, Wil Vicum and Winston Trood.

A keen historian – and skipper of an army vessel involved in the disaster – Mr Trood said on that fateful night search aircraft and vessels large and small were scouring the choppy waters outside the Rip in a desperate, futile search for Commando Roger Wood missing from the exercise the night before.

Next morning commandos also searched beaches from Point Lonsdale to Barwon Heads for their missing comrade in the knowledge that two others had already been confirmed drowned, with several others injured.

They were part of an “attack” flotilla of 74 commandos in kayaks, three man and 10 man inflatable zodiacs, and various safety craft which set off at 6pm from Lonsdale Bight beach, planning to cross the bay and launch a tactical raid on the Officer Cadet School, Portsea.

Their preparations had been thorough: the Melbourne-based 2 Commando Company had camped at Point Lonsdale for 16 days of training and military exercises. The company and its fellow 1 Commando Company in Sydney were, until 1999, the only post-World War II commando units in Australia.

The CMF (now known as Army Reserve) commando unit included soldiers who had completed their compulsory national service training. They had volunteered as commandos while fulfilling their final year of part-time training. Many of these young men become so involved in the commando way of life they stayed on as volunteers after they discharged their national service obligation.

Among the skills they were perfecting were diving and small craft handling. At the same time, they spent many days practising raid tactics under their officers and senior NCOs, many who had served in WWII and the Korean conflict. They were supported by eight members of 41 Amphibious Transport Platoon whose two DUKWs (or ‘Ducks’), a workboat and a tugboat, acted as safety craft for the kayaks and zodiac crews, and provided a platform for the frogman diving course.

In the week before the planned amphibious raid on Portsea the company had done a 50-kilometre navigation march across the Bellarine Peninsula on a day of 30 degrees-plus. They were fit, highly trained young men – but that was not enough to prepare them for the dangers they encountered on their “raid”.

A couple of hours into the exercise a fierce eight-knot turning tide caught the party and swept them out to sea through the Rip. The tide was met head-on by a strong south-westerly wind and huge waves – later estimated at 30 feet (10 metres) – which pushed the craft backwards and capsized many of them.

Many of the two-man crews were picked up by larger safety craft, leaving their abandoned kayaks to drift away, but the huge seas swamped and capsized the rescue vessels proving them to be no safe havens.

As the night wore on men were rescued by passing ships, including the Port Phillip Pilot ship the Akuna and a small flotilla of local vessels. A few paddlers made the Portsea shore in their kayaks, but many were picked up from the water, or from upturned boats, many kilometres out to sea.

These included eight commandos rescued from their zodiacs by the Italian liner Toscana. Sadly, at the point of rescue, Roger Wood was dashed from the ship’s rope ladder by a giant wave after helping his comrades to safety.

Glenn Doyle, who later served in the UK parachute battalion, recalled: “All hell broke loose – bloody great white-topped waves and canoes spread all round the horizon. We were ordered to ‘raft up’ – tie their craft together – on our safety craft.

“Towing proved impossible and we thankfully scrambled aboard the safety craft, wrapped the tow lines around the uprights on the ‘Duck’ and breathed a sigh of relief – we were ‘safe’!”

But it was not to be … “Shortly afterwards the Duck, skippered by Eddie Meyer, was swamped by huge waves, the pumps couldn’t cope, and it sunk.”

“Captain Jack Fletcher ordered us to jump and had the foresight to grab a life buoy,” Doyle said. “Jack did a terrific job. He kept me afloat as my life jacket became useless when the Duck went down, and he kept us around the one life buoy … we were all exhausted and prone to drift off.”

Fletcher was later awarded the George Medal for his bravery. “I think we were in the water three to three-and-a-half hours,” he said. “We were eventually picked up by a lifeboat from the Akuna and sometime later I was told that Meyer and Drakopoulos had drowned.”

Major Bruce Fox, the company medical officer, who had already been picked up by the Akuna, pronounced both men dead shortly after they were transferred from the lifeboat.

In 2000 a memorial was established on Shortlands Bluff at Queenscliff, overlooking the Rip and dedicated to the soldiers who had died 40 years earlier. The memorial commemorates the three men: Warrant Officer George ‘Taffy’ Drakopoulos and Private Roger Wood – whose body was never found – both from 2 Commando Company, and the driver of the Duck, Private Eddie Meyer, 41 Amphibious Tpt Platoon, Royal Australian Army Service Corps.

“Those three men will never be forgotten,” Australian Commando Association Victorian president Doug Knight said.

An official inquiry later found that a misreading of information on tide changes possibly led to the men setting off in dangerous conditions.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 18 February 2020

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‘Heartbroken’: Tributes flow after Cairns triathlon tragedy

Tributes are flowing for army veteran Dave Hayes, who tragically passed away following the Cairns Ironman triathlon on Sunday.

On Sunday evening, Ironman 70.3 organisers confirmed one of the competitors — who was later identified by The Cairns Post as Brisbane-based Jetstar pilot Dave Hayes — had died after receiving medical attention during the swim portion of the Palm Cove event.

Event organisers said they were “deeply saddened” by Hayes’ death, posting to Facebook: “We thank the swim safety and emergency services personnel for their response to provide the athlete with medical support.

“Our condolences go out to the athlete’s family and friends, whom we will continue to support during this difficult time.”

According to Hayes’ LinkedIn profile, he served as an Army officer for 27 years before working with Jetstar as a pilot.

He was a loving father and grandfather who once swam the English Channel.

Hayes’ daughter Rachel shared a heartfelt tribute on Facebook: “Dad passed away this morning doing something that he loved so passionately.

“He will be remembered for his incredible passion for flying, sailing, shooting and swimming; his hilariously terrible dad jokes; his corn fritters and his ability to always be high on his favourite ‘drug’ (as he called it) — life.

“He was my hero and my biggest cheerleader. I will always be Daddy’s little girl, no matter the age and I will always strive to be the best version of myself because of him.

“I will continue to celebrate the parts of you that live on in us.”

Ironman teammate Donna Gill shared her condolences, describing Hayes as a “true gentleman” and a “go-getter”.

“We are immensely heartbroken,” she said.

“We continued the day to finish what Dave had started with us that morning. He would’ve wanted that.

“Emotionally tough but teamwork is teamwork and we leave no man behind.

“We eventually got there in the end mate — we crossed the finish line knowing YOU were the only true Ironman yesterday.

“We have your medal Dave and will leave it with you — you bloody well earnt it that’s for sure.”

Hayes’ death was the third Cairns Ironman tragedy in six years — 43-year-old Erica Atkins died after the 2015 event, while a 47-year-old Japanese man passed away the following year.

Former Queensland Surf Lifesaving regional manager Rob Davidson said Hayes’ death was an “absolute tragedy”.

“The conditions on Sunday morning were fine — in the end safety’s the most important thing and the event co-ordinators made the call to go ahead,” Davidson said, as reported by The Cairns Post.

“Anyone that competes in endurance events has done sufficient training.

“There are always risks associated, but in the end it’s just an absolute tragedy.

“There have only been three such incidents in 10 Ironmans, though obviously one is too many.”

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Death tragedy after polling booth fall

A GRIEVING family is desperately searching for answers about how a wheelchair-bound woman could have fallen from a ramp outside an election polling booth in Hobart’s northern suburbs, resulting in her tragic death.

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ABC’s Patricia Karvelas on her experience of Parliament’s toxic ‘sexist’ culture and how a childhood tragedy shaped her

In the weeks since Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped in a ministerial office, triggering nationwide soul searching about the treatment women working in Parliament House – and the treatment of women more broadly — Patricia Karvelas has watched and reported on each development with familiar despair and unfamiliar optimism.

Karvelas has covered federal politics and national affairs for two decades and worked in the parliamentary press gallery for eight years, from 2003, with The Australian newspaper and Sky News, before moving to the ABC.

She has seen Canberra’s toxic culture up close.

“From the moment I walked in the door, the sexism, and homophobia in my case, was so pronounced and obvious that I thought ‘wow, this is going to take some managing’.

“I experienced sexual harassment — but not to put myself in the shoes of these very brave women, like Brittany Higgins and Australian of Year, Grace Tame, who’ve gone on the record about assaults, because that’s not what I’m alleging — what happened to me was actually nothing special, or newsworthy, just common, daily, run-of-the-mill stuff of working in that joint.

“I don’t mean to minimise it, because it was unpleasant, but it was normalised.

“There was a culture of sexual harassment, male superiority and unchecked power, and men being the gatekeepers of everything, the gatekeepers of what’s a ‘real’ story, and that’s what I think now has been challenged and what a great thing because finally the Parliament will catch up to the rest of modern Australia.”

Watch Karvelas grill a politician and you’ll see she is no shrinking violet – a combative interview with Barnaby Joyce comes to mind — but she, like plenty of other strong, confident women, wrestled with how to handle entrenched sexism, harassment and disrespect.

“I’ve talked to lots of women who were journalists the same time as me and they have very similar insights, we all just put up with a lot of shit,” she says.

“We made jokes about it, we talked about the politicians who would say inappropriate things to us, we knew who the creepy people were to keep away from, and we would laugh it off, not because we thought it was funny, but because we just really didn’t know what else to do.

“And I think I, like many women, made a calculation about my own career advancement, where I was in the pecking order, that the way I would get through life is laughing things off and avoiding tricky situations.

“This is what women have been doing for years, I was always changing my behaviour, which is what these younger women are now flipping.”

And it’s not just the actions of individuals making a difference; Karvelas believes we are witnessing a seismic societal change unlike any she’s seen over the years she’s been reporting on these issues.

“I haven’t been surprised by the revelations [from Brittany Higgins and others]. The only surprising part for me is that the #metoo movement originally has forced change and means that journalists are now able to tell stories in a way that I don’t think we would have been able to in the past, and I think that says more about how society is changing than anything else.

“What’s changed is that for the first time, instead of treating a story like Brittany’s with suspicion, there was a sense that we go into this believing the survivor of the alleged crime, and pressure mounted on the Prime Minister and government to respond to it.

“And the rest of the cultural reaction to that is part of that shift.

“So instead of individual complaints being seen as an isolated ‘bad egg’ story, we are for the first time able to see that as a pattern of a cultural institution that allows something like that to happen.”

Hosting a daily radio or a daily TV current affairs program is a big job. Patricia Karvelas does both, presenting Afternoon Briefing on the ABC News Channel at 4:00pm, then the Drive program on RN from 6:00pm. Plus, she co-hosts the weekly podcast, The Party Room, with RN colleague Fran Kelly, and provides regular political analysis on various other ABC radio programs and the Sunday morning discussion program, Insiders.

“I’m a great multitasker,” she says.

“For anyone who watches or listens to PK, it’s clear that she’s one of the most informed and skilled interviewers around,” ABC News managing editor of TV and video, Tim Ayliffe, says.

“She loves her job and for the people working with her, that’s infectious. Afternoon Briefing has become the home of big conversations about national affairs and in only a few years the show has become one of the most watched programs we have on ABC TV News Channel.”

“I’ve never known anyone with PK’s work ethic and drive,” said Dina Rosendorff, manager of ABC Radio Melbourne, who was executive producer of RN Drive when Karvelas took over from Waleed Aly in 2015.

“She had big shoes to fill after Waleed, and RN was a very different beast compared to The Australian, but she never shied away from the challenge. She was adamant she’d make the role her own, and she’s certainly done that.

“There’s no one better at reading the mood and getting to the heart of a complex issue. I think it comes from the politics in her veins.

“She’s remarkable, especially when you know what she faced in her childhood.”

Karvelas describes her childhood as the “typical, Melbourne, immigrant family” story. Her parents migrated from Greece in the late 60s. Her father was a builder and her mother worked on a production line in a factory.

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Tragic developments on the Indonesian missing submarine

With devastating news on the 25th of April, Indonesia’s military officials revealed that all of the 53 crew members from a submarine that sank and broke apart the week prior were dead. It also said that the search teams were able to locate the vessel’s wreckage on the ocean floor. 

This horrifying announcement surfaces after Indonesia said that the submarine was already considered sunk and not merely missing. However, they did not explicitly say whether the crew was dead. 

Officials also cited that the KRI Nanggala 402’s oxygen supply would have run out in the early hours of April 24, which was three days after the vessel went reportedly missing off the resort island of Bali. 

Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters, “We received underwater pictures that are confirmed as the parts of the submarine, including its rear vertical rudder, anchors, outer pressure body, embossed dive rudder, and other ship parts. With this authentic evidence, we can declare that KRI Nanggala 402 has sunk and all the crew members are dead.” 

Meanwhile, Adm. Yudo Margono, the navy’s chief of staff, pointed out that an underwater robot, equipped with cameras found the lost submarine lying in at least three pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of 838 meters, was used during the search. 

According to measure, that is much deeper than the KRI Nanggala 402’s collapse depth of 200 meters, and right where the point that the water pressure would be great that the hull could withstand, according to initial statements of the navy. 

To further confirm their claims, survival suits that are normally kept in boxes were found to be floating underwater, which indicated that the crew may have tried to put them on during an emergency, as reported by Margono. 

Although it is yet to be determined what is the reason for the submarine’s sinking, the navy had previously cited that a failure in electricity may have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface. 

After an extensive search, the wreckage was located 1500 meters to the south of the site where the submarine last dove off Bali’s northern coast. During the press conference, photos of the debris were presented, which were captured by the underwater robot deployed by the Singaporean vessel MV Swift Rescue.

Simultaneously, Indonesian vessel KRI Rigel scanned the area where the submarine was believed to have sunk using multibeam sonar and magnetometer.  In an address on Sunday, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo delivered his condolences saying: “All Indonesians convey deep sorrow for this tragedy, especially to all of the families of the submarine’s crew. They are the best sons of the nation, patriots guarding the sovereignty of the country.”

Glass House Mountains tragedy prompts warning for climbers, hikers

On Saturday, 18-year-old Chermside man and aspiring teacher Peter Garlick died when he fell about 40 metres from Mount Ngungun in the Glass House Mountains, while climbing with a group.

Emergency services were called to the scene to treat the teenager but he could not be revived.

“Evidence has been collected and it’s very clear cut what has happened, and in my view it is just a very tragic accident,” on-call senior officer Shane McGrail said.

“Young male, he’s done about 60 to 70 climbs; I believe he was a member of a rock-climbing club and he was with other climbers from varying climbing clubs.”

Acting Inspector McGrail said while Mr Garlick’s death was still under investigation, initial enquiries with witnesses had shed some light on the incident.

“What they started off doing [was safe], but then he’s decided to do something a little bit different,” Acting Inspector McGrail said.

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‘Turmoil’: Eastern Fwy families detail life after tragedy

The families of the four police officers who died in the Eastern Freeway tragedy last April have come face-to-face with the trucker who killed them — to tell him how his “selfish” ­actions wrecked their lives.

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Teen wakes from coma as family left reeling from double tragedy

Within weeks, Zeek Carney went from being a seemingly healthy teenager to fighting for his life.He had no idea two tumours were growing in his chest and he was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a rare blood cancer.The 17-year-old from Albury, NSW, fell suddenly ill in mid-January, and would go on to spend five weeks in an induced coma at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne as his condition deteriorated rapidly.READ MORE: Australia's economy grows 3.1 per cent in three monthsFrom left to right: Zane, Isiah and Zeek Carney as children. (Supplied)Over the weekend, doctors slowly brought Zeek out of his coma.Now, his family are grappling with how to tell Zeek some more devastating news.While he was lying unconscious in a hospital bed, Zeek's father Tom Carney died in a road accident on February 1.The truck driver had taken on more shifts to earn some extra income so he could travel back and forth from his home in Queensland to be by his son's side.Tom and Zeek's mother, Hayley, were separated and the pair had three sons together – Zeek, Isiah, 21 and Zane, 23.Eldest brother Zane told nine.com.au receiving such terrible news within a fortnight of each other had almost undone his family.”It leaves me at a loss for words. I almost can't even think about it,” he said.'He thought he had a cold'It all started to go wrong for the Carney's at the beginning of the year, when Zeek began to feel under the weather.”He was saying just that he felt a bit weak and crook,” Isiah said.Zane said when he caught up with his brother, about a week later, he was still feeling sick but was in the dark about how serious his illness was.”He thought he had a chest cold. I offered to take him to the hospital but he said, 'Nah, I'll be alright,” Zane said.A few days later, Zeek did go to Albury Hospital after he began having serious trouble breathing.”At first the doctors thought he might have pneumonia, just because of his symptoms, but then they did some scans,” Isiah said.READ MORE: New hope for leaukemia cureTom Carney, pictured with his three sons when they were younger. (Supplied)The scans showed two tumours, one on Zeek's heart and the other on his oesophagus, which doctors now believe may have been growing for months.Around the same time, Zeek's condition suddenly got worse, and doctors made the decision to put him into an induced coma and fly him down to Melbourne's The Alfred Hospital for specialist treatment.”It went from zero to a thousand so quick. At one point during the flight he was clinically dead for a bit,” Zane said.”It's so amazing what the medical staff did for him, they saved his life.”Second tragedy strikesIt was while Zeek was in a coma that the family was hit with the awful news of Tom Carney's death.Tom, a truck driver of 25 years, had been driving towards Gympie, north of Brisbane, when he his rig veered off the road and rolled in a ditch.Isiah said WorkCover was still investigating the cause of the accident and his family did not know why it happened.”He had always been a very skilled truckdriver,” Isiah said.”He was carting woodchips. It was just him and one tipper on that back. It was easy work for him, an ordinary shift.Isiah said his dad made the trip down from Queensland to Melbourne twice to see Zeek before his sudden death.”He told me he was working as much as possible so that he could afford the travel. He even was speaking about possibly moving to Melbourne indefinitely just to be close to Zeek,” Isiah said.Zeek Carney, with his dad Tom. (Supplied)Despite his dad working more shifts, Isiah said he did not think the accident was caused by fatigue.”I really don't think it would be fatigue because he had just started an afternoon shift,” he said.Isiah said his family had yet to break the news to Zeek of his father's death.”He was very close to dad, as he is with his mum, so it's going to be very hard on him,” he said.”If we have to tell him when he is already very physically unwell then I don't know what sort of toll it will have on his body.”The brothers said they had decided with their mum to wait until Zeek had grown stronger before telling him the news.”How do you tell your brother something like that. We don't know,” Zane said.Meanwhile, the family has received some promising news about Zeek's condition.Doctors began chemotherapy on Zeek while he was in a coma and the treatment appears to be working, with the tumours shrinking by more than 60 per cent.Zane said he was able to talk to his brother for the first time on Sunday, after he woke from his coma.”It was fantastic seeing him awake. It gave me a bit of hope,” he said.It's expected Zeek will still need to spend the next six months in hospital, before undergoing another 18-24 months of treatment at home.Zeek's mother Hayley has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House so she can be by his bedside. The brothers have been travelling back and forth between Albury and Melbourne.An online fundraiser has been set up to help the family with their mounting bills, while Isiah as also set up his own fundraiser, pledging to shave off his dreadlocks in order to support the Leukaemia Foundation.Contact reporter Emily McPherson at emcpherson@nine.com.au.

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Another bloody day as the tragedy of Myanmar is writ large on a T-shirt

A spokesman for the junta did not respond to a request for comment on the killings.

Myat Thu, who was with Angel at the protests, recalled a brave young woman who kicked open a water pipe so that protesters could wash tear gas from their eyes, and who lobbed a tear gas cannister back towards the police.

Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields during a rally in Yangon, Myanmar on Wednesday.Credit:AP

“When the police opened fire, she told me ‘Sit! Sit! Bullets will hit you. You look like you’re on a stage’,” recalled Myat Thu, 23. “She cared for and protected others as a comrade.”

Myat Thu said he and Angel were among hundreds who had gathered peacefully in Myanmar’s second city to denounce the coup and call for the release of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Before the police assault, Angel can be heard on video shouting, “We won’t run” and “blood must not be shed”.

First police hit them with tear-gas, Myat Thu said. Then the bullets came. Pictures taken before she was killed show Angel lying down for cover beside a protest banner, with her head slightly raised.

Friends of Kyal Sin –  also known as Angel, and by her Chinese name Deng Jia Xi – visit her body.

Friends of Kyal Sin –  also known as Angel, and by her Chinese name Deng Jia Xi – visit her body.Credit:AP

Everyone scattered, Myat Thu said. It was only later that he got the message: one girl was dead.

“I didn’t know that it was her,” Myat Thu said, but pictures soon appeared on Facebook showing her lying beside another victim.

Wednesday’s bloodletting more than doubled the death toll at protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to Myanmar’s streets. The army, which says one policeman has died, has said it will act against “riotous protesters”.

The pride of a first-time voter

Myat Thu got to know Angel at a taekwondo class. She was an expert in the martial art as well as a dancer at Mandalay’s DA-Star Dance Club, posting videos of her latest moves on Facebook.

She also shared her pride in voting for the first time on November 8 – posting a picture of herself kissing her finger, stained purple to show she had voted.

“My very first vote, from the bottom of my heart,” she posted, with six red hearts. “I did my duty for my country.”

The army seized power to annul that vote, alleging that the sweeping victory of Suu Kyi’s party was down to fraud. Its accusations were rejected by the electoral commission.

On the day of the coup, Angel joked on Facebook that she hadn’t known what was going on when the internet was cut off.

Medics supply oxygen to protesters who were exposed to tear-gas during clashes with the military and police in Yangon on Wednesday.

Medics supply oxygen to protesters who were exposed to tear-gas during clashes with the military and police in Yangon on Wednesday.Credit:Getty Images

In the days that followed, she made her stand clear – out on the street waving the red flag of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. In one set of pictures she posed as her father tied a red ribbon to her wrist.

She kept going even as protests grew more dangerous and as the junta deployed combat troops with assault rifles alongside police.

Like Angel, more than a dozen other protesters have been killed by shots to the dead, raising suspicions among rights groups that they were intentionally targeted. Another woman – a bystander – was shot in the head in Mandalay on Sunday.


Angel had known she was risking her life.

One friend, Kyaw Zin Hein, shared a copy of her last message to him on social media. It read: “This might be the last time I say this. Love you so much. Don’t forget”.

On Facebook, she had posted her medical details and the request to donate her body is she were killed. Messages of grief and acclaim flooded the page on Wednesday.

“She was a happy girl, she loved her family and her father loved her so much too,” said Myat Thu, who is now in hiding.

“We are not in a war. There is no reason to use live bullets on people. If they are human, they will not do it.”


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After the Jacinda Barclay tragedy, North Melbourne AFLW player Sophie Abbatangelo wants to talk about mental health

Kangaroo Sophie Abbatangelo wants to start a conversation about mental health and AFLW.

It’s an issue that has been thrust into the spotlight this season after the tragic loss of GWS Giant Jacinda Barclay in October 2020. Barclay was 29 and the first active AFL men’s or women’s player to take his or her own life.

But while conversations about mental health have gained increasing prominence in the men’s game, it’s an issue yet to gain the same traction in AFLW.

“There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the men’s game,” says Abbatangelo.

“I think that’s great, because men have been the ones [traditionally] to suffer in silence. Women have been known to be better at communicating their feelings. But that’s not always the case.”

Abbatangelo’s own battle with mental health issues started when her mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in 2009, just one year after she finished high school. At the time, Abbatangelo was studying at TAFE and playing basketball at a high level.

“I used to finish class and go sit with Mum while she had chemotherapy. Seeing someone you love so much go through that is crippling.

“I started effectively mourning Mum’s loss while she was still alive, mourning how she would never come back to her former self.

“That type of prolonged grief is incredibly isolating, but people don’t really talk about that kind of grief openly.”

After nine agonising years living with cancer, Abbatangelo’s mother died in 2018, just before her daughter made her AFLW debut.

“Playing AFLW and not having her there to see me experience it or to watch me live out a dream that she once saw in me is what I’ll miss the most,” she said.

Over the last 12 months of her mum’s life, and while she played VFLW for Melbourne University, Abbatangelo went through a separation, was the primary carer of her two children and nursed her Mum at home.

“I think every day I was just in survival mode,” the now 30-year-old says.

“I look back now and wonder how I coped, how I managed to keep my kids emotionally and physically happy and healthy and keep my own head above water.

Following her mum’s death, Abbatangelo said she had to “start over”.

“When Mum died a large part of me died too. I had to learn to feel joy again, learn to open up to people, to have a simple conversation again,” she said.

The 2021 AFLW season presents unique challenges to player welfare.

Since the competition’s inception, AFLW players have struggled to juggle competing priorities, with low wages and six-month contracts meaning many work year-round (including during the season) to earn a living.

This balancing act has become harder again in a pandemic season that has already required one club — the Giants — to “hub” in Albury and then interstate for over a month. Other clubs are likely to follow suit to ensure this year’s competition — unlike the last — can finish with a Premier.

During the pre-season, players were forced to get creative to return to clubs physically and mentally fit, with Kangaroos captain Emma Kearney telling Nine newspapers that some used “wheelie bins as squat racks, while others re-purposed various household items to complete their exercises”.

Abbatangelo recounts a similarly chaotic preparation. During Melbourne’s extended lockdown in 2020, she home-schooled her two children, including seven-year-old son Hendrix who lives with both ADHD and central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).

“To have to stay at home with the kids from sun up till sun down, without tools to help educate them, was by far the most challenging thing I’ve done,” she says.

With her mental health “spiralling”, she reached out to the Kangaroos’ club doctor for support.

“That was a really hard thing to do,” says Abbatangelo.

But she now realises it was necessary. Subsequently, the AFL and club have set her up with a psychologist and psychiatrist, which she describes as an “amazing” support.

The Kangaroos have a qualified psychologist and welfare coordinator present at each training session, while players fill in regular wellness surveys to allow the medical team and coaching staff to know how their players are tracking.

Thank you for seeing this post involving “News in the City of Melbourne titled “After the Jacinda Barclay tragedy, North Melbourne AFLW player Sophie Abbatangelo wants to talk about mental health”. This story was shared by My Local Pages Australia as part of our VIC news services.

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