Cats star and former Crow Patrick Dangerfield has opened up on the emotional pain of Phil Walsh’s death, which occurred in July 2015.
Dangerfield spoke with Hamish McLachlan on AFL Media‘s ‘Last Time I Cried’ series, recounting the surreal moment when he first heard the news.
“After Round 13, I think it was a Wednesday night, Thursday morning, Phil was killed,” Dangerfield said.
“Then 5.30 Thursday morning David Noble who was the GM of footy at Adelaide at the time, now at Brissy, knocked on my door. When you see someone at 5.30 in the morning… his face was just white, blank.
“He said ‘I need to you come in’, I said ‘What’s going on?’, he said ‘Phil’s been stabbed’. I said ‘What?’ He said ‘Phil’s dead. You need to come in.’ ”
The AFL community experienced an outpouring of grief from players, fans and the media alike. Memorably, Collingwood and Hawthorn players linked arms in the middle of the MCG at the end of the first match to be played since Walsh’s passing, paving the way for the rest of the clubs to play that weekend to follow suit.
When Dangerfield and the Crows took to the field, their emotions were too strong to contain.
“The real emotional breakdown was after that West Coast game (in round 15) walking off the ground,” Dangerfield remembered.
“I remember Nic Nat was next to me, I can’t remember who was on the other side, and you’re up against the guys who you’ve just crashed into for two straight hours.
“Because Phil had spent plenty of time at West Coast and that’s where he’d come from those guys were certainly emotional as well because they’d knew him so well, that was when everything was just laid bare and the change-rooms after, everyone was incredibly emotional, we were all crying.
“Left it all out there and after it was like oh my god and a total release of yep this is real, he’s gone, he’s not coming back and what’s next?
“When you’re asked when was the last time you cried you think you’ve been so fortunate because you see so many and hear so many and read so many incredible stories of people who have suffered such tragic loss and you think of your own life and existence and think geez it’s been such a total blessing.
“But the Phil one for me is like someone who meant so much to so many people and had galvanised the group so quickly, trained us so bloody hard, never allowed to walk during a session – you could either run or stand still, it was all of a sudden gone.
“We’d seen a real uplift in performance and this was the right path and then it was done.”
Amidst the grief, Dangerfield said he would always remember how the league reached out to him and his teammates.
“It’s such a competitive environment you’re in. You’re out to destroy the opposition on a weekly basis and one up everyone else, but the way that the league wrapped their arms around us as an organisation and how the club wrapped their arms around their players, that part I won’t ever forget.