Rugby legend Mario Fenech’s wife has revealed he would come home ‘p***** off’ after being constantly mocked on the NRL Footy Show in the wake of his very public battle with incipient dementia.
The 60-year-old is one of the most popular figures in the sport, but Rebecca Fenech, the former wife of Rabbitohs icon, has revealed that he was resentful for always being the butt of jokes on the long-running program.
Mario Fenech pictured with wife Rebecca – who has revealed that her husband was resentful about ongoing ribbing on The Footy Show. The footy legend was diagnosed with dementia at age 53
Fenech had a long career in the NRL in the 1980s and 1990s, captaining the South Sydney Rabbitohs for five seasons. He also played 82 games for the North Sydney Bears (pictured above) and 11 games for the South Qld Crushers
Fenech, who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia seven years ago at the age of 53, was treated by the Channel 9 show as a comedic figure and an object of ridicule.
Ms Fenech said the show continued to laugh at her husband despite being fully aware of his devastating condition.
‘She [The Footy Show] perceived the mickey out of him, really, he’s a very intelligent man – but that’s the way it rolled,” Ms Fenech told Channel 7.
“He wasn’t a boy boy because he didn’t gamble, he didn’t go out for a beer after the show. So I guess it kind of isolated him from those people.”
Fenech didn’t like being constantly mocked on The Footy Show
Ms Fenech said her husband would come home upset from the show and that Fenech’s parents were “definitely not comfortable” with the way their son was portrayed on the show.
She said Fenech’s condition was no secret and that everyone had been aware of his deteriorating condition for some time.
“I mean, whispers have been around for a long time,” she said.
“They know, they clearly saw his decline on The Footy Show as well.
“It just hasn’t been talked about, it’s quiet.”
Ms Fenech believes the 275 NRL games her husband played have taken an irreversible toll on his brain.
Fenech’s condition has deteriorated to the point that he has almost no memory, and it won’t be long before the former soccer star will need full-time care.
Ms Fenech calls the condition the ‘silent, lone killer’ and has come forward to speak out for all other patients and families ‘and for future generations of children who love rugby league’.
In early September, former NRL star James Graham revealed the enormous toll that repeated head trauma had taken on his life.
Fenech is pictured with his family – Joe, Rebecca and Bonnie
The former England international revealed he has suffered more than 100 concussions and 18,000 collisions and that the damage has left him with ‘confrontational’ mental health issues.
The symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a neurodegenerative disease related to repeated trauma to the head — include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and problems controlling impulses.
Importantly, CTE can also lead to depression and anxiety and eventually progressive dementia.