COMPERE 1: Problem Gambling is a great supporter of ours on AFL Live, and it’s affected a lot of people of the years, Moons, and it’s been well documented that some footballers have been affected by that over the years. A gentleman who’d played 136 games for Melbourne from 1998 to 2007 is one of those, Daniel Ward, and Daniel’s been good enough to give us some of his time on AFL Live. Daniel, thanks for joining us.
DANIEL WARD: No worries, boys.
How are you going?
COMPERE 1: Yeah, we’re well. And we treat this issue very seriously because, as you know, we do have the support of Gamblers’ Help Online which really does a great job supporting AFL Liveand getting the message around Australia.
And it is a period of your life that you look back on and probably wish that you could have changed it. Can you just give us a bit of background as to how it all started for you and how the problem started?
DANIEL WARD: Yeah, and that’s why I sort of get around in the football clubs and talk about is how I sort of started from gambling in Lucky Nugget $5, $10, you know, with mates and just a bit of enjoyment. Obviously AFL players in particular can’t do a lot of the stuff that their mates are doing, and how it sort of grew, what sort of signs there were along the way. And exactly like you said, if I could take – you know, go back in time and change what I went through, I would.
But I can’t now and, you know, one of the things of being involved with these programs is to help people to make those decisions so they don’t go down the same path.
COMPERE 1: And I guess, Daniel, that’s one of the hardest things, that when you start living the lie, then it becomes really difficult to get out of that and you start lying to people in these circumstances and finding ways to justify it.
DANIEL WARD: Yes.
COMPERE 1: If you can stop that process and nip in the bud straight away, you’ve got a lot more chance of being helped.
DANIEL WARD: Yeah, definitely. And look, when we do these talks it’s by no means am I saying, you know, no betting, no gambling.
It’s like I said, if you can control it and you’re honest with your partner or whoever it may be about how much you spent and all that type of stuff and you set limits and you stick to that, there’s no issue whatsoever. I’ve got, you know, heaps of friends who gamble. But for me, I couldn’t control it and that’s when the dishonesty come into it, and borrowing of money and all that type of stuff that, you know, I’m sure there’s – well, I know there’s a lot of people that go through those things, and it’s just about, you know, putting steps in place to help them and just let them know that there is help out there for them.
COMPERE 2: Wardy, Moons here, mate. Thanks for joining us, buddy.
DANIEL WARD: No worries, mate.
COMPERE 2: Just want to ask, when did – through all this when it was going on, when did you sit there and go, you know, I’m at my lowest point?
DANIEL WARD: Oh mate, probably my lowest point was – and I did a news – I’ve done a couple of newspaper articles. But when, my lowest point was sitting in an addiction clinic two years ago – I’m two years clean tomorrow, so two years ago now when I had to leave my family, young family, and go to Adelaide for a month and being there with other addicts, drug addicts and alcoholics and the like.
And it was basically, you know, my bag was searched and all that type of stuff for, you know, making sure I didn’t bring anything in that was going to harm anybody else in the house. And I was there for a month, and yeah, basically just broke down, like, how did it get to that stage. And that was my lowest – that was my lowest part, mate, two years ago. And luckily I spent the next month there and learnt so much and it managed to turn my life around. But you know, like I said, being two years down the track, I’m still only one bet away from being back down in the same position, so…
COMPERE 2: Yeah…
DANIEL WARD: Go on, mate.
COMPERE 2: No, sorry, I was just going to say, we know and Ox were great mates back in the Demons days and we know about what Ox went through as well.
Do you guys still keep in contact and was he a huge, like a resource, I guess, for you when you were going through all of this?
DANIEL WARD: Yeah, we still keep in contact. And I suppose – and I still go to Gamblers Anonymous meetings and the like, and I suppose the link I have with Ox is that he understands.
And when I was at that lowest ebb, Ox was one of the people that I went and spoke to and, you know, how do I get out of it, I want to stop, what do I do. And yeah, I’d actually had enough and Ox was there for me. And yeah, I do, I do keep in contact with him, and that’s just that obviously he’s been through it. But look, I take a little bit out of what he’s done because it’s, you know, stuff where he doesn’t go to Spring Carnival, he doesn’t do any of it, he goes fishing for two weeks or whatever.
And you know, all the stuff that he put in place about handling of money. A lot of people out there, you know, would think that it’s, you know, crazy to have to give receipts and – for $10 and $20. That’s what my life was for – especially the first year, and that’s where I had to get to because I, as gambling addicts, or for me, I can’t handle money.
So I’m getting better at that, but I definitely learned a lot off Ox in that regard.
COMPERE 1: Wardy, speaking of Ox, I’ve read his book, and it is a fascinating read, it’s a frightening read. But one thing that kept on coming back to me was the support of his wife, Karen, and the fact that she was prepared to forgive everything that he did. And your partner, your wife Melanie, is very much in the same boat.
She’s been a tower of strength for you in this regard.
DANIEL WARD: Yeah, yeah, very lucky, and we’re both. And you know, Karen’s a ripper and, you know, I’m very lucky I’ve got the same. So no, Mel’s been, you know – two years ago I basically got to the stage where I couldn’t stop myself, and Mel, along with other members of my family and friends, organised an intervention to get me some help because I wasn’t strong enough, if you like, to stop by myself.
And yeah, so she’s been an amazing support, you know, all the way through that and then obviously over the last two years, like I said, since that two-year period life’s getting better and, you know, we’re now – she’s seven weeks away from having our second child. That wouldn’t have been – I wouldn’t have been – she wouldn’t have been able to trust me to do that if I hadn’t cleaned my act up. So yeah, I’m very lucky to have her.
COMPERE 2: And just what about footy, Wardy? Are you still involved up near Swan Hill with, is it Marley (*) Eagles, or Mallee Eagles.
DANIEL WARD: Mallee Eagles, yeah.
COMPERE 2: Mallee Eagles, how’s that all going, bud? DANIEL WARD: No, we’re not going great. We’re two and six at the moment, second last on the ladder. I can’t get on park.
I keep rolling my ankles and carrying a little bit of extra weight these days, so I can’t…
COMPERE 2: Oh don’t worry, that happens to the best of us, buddy.
DANIEL WARD: But yeah, no, I’m enjoying that. I’m playing coach, so yeah, it’s – you know, I don’t think I want to get into assistant coach or anything like that. I just enjoy having my own group and, you know, I enjoy working with the young blokes there and watching them come through colts and then to play senior footy. So yeah, I’m enjoying that…
COMPERE 2: Hey Wardy, just quickly, is it being in that team environment, is that great for you, just having that support of all the boys in a football club?
DANIEL WARD: Yeah, I’m very lucky.
Look, I was playing there two years ago when I had to take a month off. I basically – I had to take a month off from everything, go to Adelaide, so you know, they gave me a month off. And then my employer – I worked for Konica Minolta, and they were – I’d just started there and they gave me a month off as well to go and get some help and I’m still with them. So I’m very lucky that I’ve had that support, not just from family and friends but my employers as well.
So yeah, I’m very lucky.
COMPERE 1: Wardy, we really appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time and been so open about what has happened. What you are saying now will quite possibly be striking a chord with someone listening to us on AFL Live around Australia. What would you say to that person or those persons if it does seem familiar to them? What’s the first step? What do they do from here?
DANIEL WARD: I think it’s just – I think it’s just asking for help. I think people these days are more understanding if people are going through some issues but you’re willing to put your hand up and say, look, I can’t handle this, how do I – how do I get some help. I think that’s the first step. And the point you made before about being honest, if you’re not honest with anyone else, maybe just being honest with yourself.
COMPERE 1: Yeah.
DANIEL WARD: And that – with my addiction, I probably thought it was too big and the debt load and all that type of stuff, no one would understand, I stuffed up again.
All that type of stuff goes through your head where, you know, I can’t tell anyone. I think it’s just that, like I said, people are more and more understanding. So you know, I can’t tell you how good the last two years of my life have been and, you know, I’m 34 now.
You know, I wish I did stop at 22, but I stopped at 32, so you know, I’ve got a future to look forward to. And you know, I’m the happiest I’ve been, so that’s what I’d say.
COMPERE 1: That’s great to hear. Thanks for your time, Daniel. We really appreciate the fact you’ve taken the time to have a chat to us.
And the best of luck for impending fatherhood coming up in a few weeks’ time with you and Melanie.
DANIEL WARD: No worries. Thanks, boys.
COMPERE 1: Daniel Ward joining us who played 136 games for Melbourne from 1998 to 2007. It’s a lesson it can happen to any of us.
COMPERE 2: It can.
It’s quite scary how quickly your life can just plummet. INTERVIEW ENDS