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Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin claims the NRL Footy Show mocked Mario Fenech during his battle with dementia

NRL Footy Show icon Paul Vautin has strongly refuted claims that the long-running television show mocked Mario Fenech after he learned of his devastating dementia diagnosis, insisting the Southern states “loved” his Mickey being taken away .

Fenech, 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.

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

Fenech opened up about his poor health on Seven’s Spotlight program on Sunday, which Vautin has praised – but he was upset by an article the following day.

The headline read, “Footy Show Mocked Cult Hero Mario Fenech When It Knew He Was Sick,” which he says is dead wrong.

“I’ve never seen a more disgusting headline,” Vautin told Wide World of Sports Radio. “It’s incredibly disappointing to see this.

I did an interview with him [Fenech] at the SFS [Sydney Football Stadium] at a coffee shop in 2016 and he announced that he had early onset dementia and we were all shocked.

“I know for a fact that Mario was rarely, if ever, used on the show after that, so there’s no way we can mock him [while knowing of his condition]None at all.

“I just want to reassure people who were fans of the show at the time. This show left a great legacy.

“I just want to tell you that we never abused Mario Fenech once we knew he had dementia.”

Fenech’s wife Rebecca claimed her husband would often come home “upset” at being treated on the show and suggested The Footy Show continued to treat him badly despite knowing his health was deteriorating.

Vautin claims he never once heard Fenech complain and claims part of the show’s appeal was how all the stars upset each other.

“Mario was very good on the show and he loved being on the show,” Vautin said.

“He knew we were screwing him a lot, but he played the part so well.

“After the show was over, it was like, ‘Hey buddy, how are you?’ again, and it always ended with, ‘I love you Fat, see you next week.'”

Vautin says he only has sympathy for Rebecca Fenech and understands where her criticism is coming from.

“Rebecca was a great wife to him and a great person too. I understand her frustration because she thought we upset him a bit too much, but he played a role and he loved it and he got paid.”

Fenech’s condition has deteriorated to the point where he now has almost no memory and his neurologist says it won’t be long before the former footy star will need full-time care.

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