Chelsea Frawley carries her father’s legacy in mental fitness

L-R Danielle Frawley, Anita Frawley, Keeley Frawley, Chelsea Frawley. Image credit: Corey Scicluna.

Chelsea Frawley, the eldest daughter of St Kilda legend, Danny Frawley, is kicking goals by raising awareness of mental health on and off the field.

The phrase ‘mind over matter’ often comes into play in the sporting world. For Chelsea, the connection between physical and mental fitness couldn’t be more important.

Chelsea is the eldest daughter of former St Kilda Football captain, Danny Frawley, and she’s passionate about increasing understanding and identifying mental health issues.

Carrying the legacy of her late father, Chelsea is proud to continue the important work of the Saints great and honour him through the new Danny Frawley Centre at Moorabbin Reserve – a safe place for those needing support in mental health and wellbeing.

‘We’re helping build mental fitness in the community and want them to feel supported in life, regardless of the footy team they barrack for,’ Chelsea said.

During Danny’s nine years as Saints captain and career of 240 games VFL/AFL games, he gained the nickname ‘Spud’ – a reference to his time growing up and working on a potato farm in Victoria’s north-west, Bungaree. From that came ‘Spud’s Game’, an annual AFL match raising funds for mental health alongside charity organisation, Movember.

A true footy legend, Danny earned a badge of honour in 2006, becoming a member of St Kilda’s Hall of Fame.

Vulnerability in sport

Interior of a light filled room with big windows, an indoor plant and a wall sized image of Danny FrawleyOutside the game, Danny became a passionate advocate for mental health and research, never afraid to be vulnerable and leading much-needed conversations around struggles his team may have been facing. This support helped make others feel more comfortable to speak up when they needed to lighten their mental load.

‘The sense of connection through the camaraderie in sport with like-minded individuals is strong on and off the field,’ Chelsea said.

‘You see your sport mates up to three times a week, so you start noticing their behaviour and habits. When something is off, such as a player not turning up to training, withdrawing from social situations or engaging in risky behaviour, you definitely notice.’

Chelsea says noticing different behaviour should prompt a check-in to show support.

‘For men especially, having these conversations in private while doing an activity might help them to open up.

‘I encourage you to be open and share what’s going on in your life if you’re experiencing any struggles, as it creates a safe environment for others to possibly do the same,’ she said.

Benefits of physical activity on mental health

Chelsea says that the sporting landscape focuses on connection and community and is a big reason why her dad played sport for so long.

‘Dad was a very competitive and driven person and experienced the benefits of physical activity on his mental health,’ she said.

He’s passed that mindset down to his three daughters who all love playing sport too. Chelsea’s favourite memory is when she won a premiership with her Victorian Amateur Football Association team with her dad watching on as coach.

‘Mental health conversations have increased over the years and a lot more people, especially men, feel a lot safer to share what they’re experiencing,’ Chelsea said.

While these important conversations have become more frequent in recent years, the number of people with mental health struggles has increased.  The Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019-2023 highlights that each year, 1 in 5 Victorians will experience a mental health condition, with 45% of Victorians having a condition in their lifetime.

The plan encourages the incorporation of physical activity into every day, as it’s associated with improved mental health, ageing well and increased levels of happiness.

Mental health centre welcomes all

Light filled room with swimming pool and a person swimming mid freestyle strokeThe Danny Frawley Centre has trained and caring staff to support those who walk through its doors. Along with an aquatic centre and community gymnasium, the centre also provides mindfulness rooms, psychology consultation and mental fitness programs.

After more than a year of operation, the centre has already become an important institution for mental health and wellbeing, including launching a research project on athlete mental fitness in partnership with Monash University.

‘We’re really grateful the St Kilda Football Club has given us this opportunity to continue Dad’s legacy,’ Chelsea said.

The Frawley family are hands-on with the centre, meeting its Executive Director regularly to make sure the values and programs stay true to what Danny would have wanted.

‘Dad would be so amazed and proud if he was here to see the positive contribution the centre makes to the community’s mental health,' she said.

‘The place really honours Dad’s legacy as a warm and caring person,’ Chelsea said.

The delivery of the Danny Frawley Centre was part of the Moorabbin Reserve Redevelopment – Stage 2. This provided the Saints’ men’s and women’s teams with elite training facilities.

Stage 2 of the project was supported by a $20.3 million grant from the Victorian Government.

The redevelopment included the construction of AFLW changerooms and administration facilities which were opened in 2019, followed by the construction of an AFLW grandstand and 25m hydrotherapy pools.

For more information on the centre, visit: Danny Frawley Centre. If this article has raised any mental health concerns, please contact Lifeline Australia or Beyond Blue.