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Mario Fenech dementia battle: Souths Great’s wife reveals Footy Show dumped him after mockery

The wife of former rugby league tough man Mario Fenech has revealed how former TV colleagues lost touch and left him after his devastating health passing, despite seeing early signs.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs legend, now 60, suffers from memory loss and has the brain of an 80-year-old after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia seven years ago.

He now has advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressively debilitating brain disorder caused by repeated blows to the head and prolonged episodes of concussions.

After calling full-time in his 274-game career in the 1990s, Fenech became a fixture on Channel Nine’s long-running NRL Footy Show, where he was relentlessly taunted and became the constant subject of jokes and pranks from the panel.

Rebecca Fenech has opened up about the personal pain the backstage taunting and taunting on the show has had for her husband, 30.

Only three former stars of The Footy Show – Paul ‘Fatty Vautin, Peter Sterling and Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach remain in contact with Mario, although they revealed early stages of his demise while still on the show.

“He talks to Fatty very occasionally, or to Sterlo, sometimes to Blocker, that’s three who he talks to maybe once or twice a year,” Ms Fenech told 7News Spotlight.

“But no, we don’t hear from anyone.”

She insists all of her husband’s former co-stars are aware of his battle with dementia.

“Of course they are, it’s been whispered about for a long time. They know they saw his decline on The Footy Show as well,” she said

“It just wasn’t talked about, it’s quiet.”

She suspects many other retired players have not come forward because her husband could be a mirror they find difficult to look in as she made a plea for them on the future of rugby league.

“He played this game with a lot of passion, he loved it,” said Ms. Fenech.

‘I really don’t know what to tell you.’

‘Just help, help this game become safer.’

Ms Fenech recalled how her husband revealed he would come home “p***** off” after being constantly taunted on The Footy Show and how upset he was at his treatment on the show as comedic figure and as an object of ridicule.

She said the show continues to poke fun at her husband despite being fully aware of his devastating condition.

‘She [The Footy Show] threw him off where he really is a very intelligent man – but that’s how it went,” Ms Fenech added.

“He wasn’t a boy because he didn’t act, he didn’t go for a beer after the show. I suppose it isolated him a bit from those people.’

She added that Mario would be returning home from the show upset and that his parents were “certainly not happy” with the way their son was portrayed on the show.

Fenech still plays golf regularly, goes to the gym and remains involved with his beloved Rabbitohs.

He still attends games and was pictured at Souths practice last week ahead of Saturday night’s big elimination win over Cronulla.

Souths are now a win away from the NRL Grand Final but face a daunting task against defending Premier Penrith.

Fenech himself spoke of the shattering effect his declining health had on him.

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