Monday, October 3, 2022

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NRL legend Mario Fenech has forgotten his son’s wedding while battling dementia joked about on The Footy Show

Mario Fenech’s wife has revealed the Souths legend’s battle with dementia is so serious that he repeatedly forgot the day of his own son’s wedding – and couldn’t remember speaking at the ceremony.

The rugby league hardman’s progressively debilitating brain condition, caused by repeated blows to the head, wreaked havoc on his life.

Mario’s wife Rebecca has spoken candidly about how his daily struggles with memory and understanding have left the 60-year-old a shadow of the man he once was.

“He doesn’t remember the moment because the next moment is the new moment,” she explained.

“For example, when my son got married in April, I was only able to tell him [the day of the ceremony].

“He knew, but in the morning I said, ‘Today is the wedding,’ and even during the day I said, ‘We’re going to the wedding today…to the wedding today.’

“And I wanted to make that a special day because it was probably the last time that we might all get to celebrate.”

Fenech gave a speech at the wedding and had a very special night with his family, but couldn’t remember anything the next morning.

“The really sad part of this story,” explained his son Joe, “is when my parents woke up in the morning the day after the wedding, my father turned to my mother and said, ‘Oh, I’m really excited for the wedding, when is she?”

Another heartbreaking revelation from Fenech’s wife was that the former Footy Show star was upset after he was mercilessly mocked at the long-running programme, likening himself to a “circus animal” and a “novelty act”.

She claimed the show’s stars poked fun at Fenech despite being fully aware of his harrowing health struggle.

“They threw him off where he’s really a very intelligent man – but that’s how it went,” Ms Fenech said of the Channel Nine show.

“You know, they obviously saw his downfall on The Footy Show as well. It just wasn’t talked about, it’s quiet.’

She said only three former The Footy Show stars — Paul “Fatty” Vautin, Peter Sterling and Steve “Blocker” Roach — are still in touch with Mario.

“He speaks very occasionally to Fatty or to Sterlo, sometimes to Blocker, it’s three he speaks to maybe once or twice a year,” Ms Fenech told Channel Seven.

“But no, we don’t hear from anyone.”

Fenech played 274 first-class games, but unfortunately has little memory of his career due to the irreversible condition.

Doctors say the man, nicknamed “Muzza”, despite his age of 60, has the brain of an “80-year-old patient”.

Fenech’s wife says the condition means his life is a constant struggle.

“Every day now he wakes up and says, ‘I’m confused. I do not know why. I don’t feel great,” she said. “He can’t really do or think for himself.”

Ms Fenech said she wanted to share Mario’s devastating story to shine a spotlight on one of Australian sport’s biggest issues: the long-term effects of a concussion.

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