Rugby league legend Mario Fenech’s wife has revealed he was coming home after being constantly taunted on the NRL Footy Show following his very public battle with early onset dementia.
The 60-year-old is one of the sport’s most beloved personalities but the wife of the former Rabbitohs icon, Rebecca Fenech, has revealed he was upset because he was always the butt of jokes on the long-running show.
Fenech, who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia seven years ago aged 53, has been treated as a comedic figure and an object of ridicule by the Channel 9 show.
Ms Fenech 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 told Channel 7.
“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.’
Ms Fenech said her husband would be returning home from the show upset and that Fenech’s parents were “certainly not happy” with the way their son was portrayed on the show.
She said Fenech’s condition was no secret as everyone had been aware of his deteriorating condition for some time.
“I mean, there have been rumors for a long time,” she said.
“You know, they obviously saw his downfall on The Footy Show as well.
“It just wasn’t talked about, it’s quiet.”
Ms Fenech believes the 275 NRL games her husband has played have taken an irreversible toll on his brain.
Fenech’s condition has deteriorated to the point where he has almost no memory and it won’t be long before the former footy star will need full-time care.
Describing the condition as a “silent lonely killer” Ms Fenech has come to speak about it for everyone else affected and families, “and for future generations of children who love rugby league”.
In early September, former NRL star James Graham revealed the enormous toll repeated head injuries had taken on his life.
The former England international revealed he has suffered more than 100 concussions and 18,000 collisions and the damage has left him with mental health issues.
Symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated head injuries – include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment and problems with impulse control.
Significantly, CTE can also lead to depression and anxiety, and eventually progressive dementia.