Ex-AFL Stars Open Up About Gambling (Daryn Cresswell, David Schwartz and Daniel Ward)

HOST: Thanks for your company and welcome
to a special forum as part of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. Today we are joined
by three big name ex football self-confessed gamblers and they are here to tell us their
stories of how they’ve emerged from those dark days. We have got an old Swans – Daryn
Cresswell and a couple of ex Demons – David Schwartz and Daniel Ward. David, I will start
with you. It’s been nine years since you’ve last had a bet. It’s been a long nine years
for you though, hasn’t it? DAVID SCHWARTZ: It has. It has gone very quickly
too. It is amazing what happens when you make good decisions and you are thinking clearly
and not under pressure and you don’t have the weight of debt collectors and people chasing
money around you. So, the last five years in particular has been probably the best five
years in my life. HOST: Do you ever feel as though that you
do overcome it, to a point where you know it’s not going through too? DAVID: Yeah, I think I’m just about there
too now. It has been over three thousand days. I gambled pretty much the majority of my life,
up until I gave up and then, it does take time to stop thinking about it. I think the
last couple of years have been almost guilt-free and having no thoughts of having going back
and gambling, but there are still things that do trigger memories and sounds and smells
and there’s some things that goes that, that hang on, that was a good time but then you
actually got to think back and say no, it wasn’t. They were bad times. HOST: Yeah, Daryn, your time away from gambling
isn’t as long but again you have got a similar story to tell, haven’t you? In terms In terms
that you are at a stage now and a space now where it seems really good. DARYN CRESSWELL: Yeah I probably spend about
three years I think obviously when I first went inside to jail for what happened to me
but certainly I’m in a better place and I’ve been around a place of good people and it
helps. And having that support is really important. And moving to the Gold Coast has been terrific
to me and it has got me out of Sydney where it all started basically and that being in
that environment and I’ve got alot of people around me at the moment who have given me
great support which makes it alot easier. HOST: Daniel, your story has been well played
out publicly like the other two guys. Just where are you at the moment? DANIEL WARD: Yeah, so my story is four years
since I’ve had a punt next month. So, like Schwartz, there are times where it can be
difficult, the longer you stay, it gets easier and easier and you think back like Schwartz
said, in that nine years starting to have those guilt-free days and probably still struggle
with that a little bit because life grows on you. And you affect the people closest
to you – your wife and kids. But no, it’s going well. HOST: What was the key moment for each of
you in realising you had a problem that needed to stop and needed to dealt with in the most
drastic of ways. I will go with you David. The key, the moment you realise you had a
really serious problem with no turning back. DAVID: Money runs out. Number one. Because
if you still got the thing that can feed your addiction, the addiction is still going to
continue. Going broke was number one. For me, my family came along and, Karen. Karen
never saw me play football and she, we just had our first child. Was his christening and
so for me, family took priority. I grew up without my old man. He died as a problem gambler
as well. The last thing I wanted to do was to leave my family without or with having
the same influence that my dad did. So, that was a pretty big driving force for me to make
sure that the legacy that I leave for my kids wasn’t the same as what my dad left. So, that
was a real driving factor and you know it’s doom and gloom when you are going through
it. But the minute you make that decision to actually to rehabilitate and get yourself
on the straight, this enormous weight comes off. And, it’s like your next challenge in
life. Right up, let’s get into it and away you go, and for those that are experiencing
difficulties with gambling, that decision away from actually becoming the person you
wanna be. Until you make that decision though, you are just going to be like the person who’s
going to start the diet tomorrow. If you don’t get onto it, you just going to prolong it
and prolong it, but the time you are ready to make the decision, you are thirty or forty
per cent worse off than where you could have been than when you could have made the decision
earlier. HOST: You all referred to partners and families
as mechanism that’s been absolutely crucial to you merging from where you were. Other
support services too? I mean there’s alot them about, did you, I’m assuming you all
used them in some form. DAVID: Absolutely. And some work for someone
and some don’t for others. So whether it’s gambler’s help or anonymous, they’ve got wonderful
services that are 24/7 because alot of people watching today that don’t have that support,
but don’t have that partner. The partner’s gone. Family’s not there. They are 24/7, so
they can answer and almost a shoulder to lean on in the really hard time. It took me fifteen
goes. At least fifteen goes of going through those networks and finally finally going through
and putting our own system in place. But it was the lessons all learnt through them, in
those fifteen tries that I was able to bring to the table and couple in what I was trying
to do and came to the solution, so there’s some wonderful people out there and wonderful
government departments that are doing the right thing, like the 100 day challenge and
when it’s no longer it’s fun, walk away and so many lessons that have been put through
to media that we should be learning from and no doubt, they are the warning signs and the
distractions that we have to learn from to rehabilitate. Thankfully, when I was punting,
there was no internet or the internet was so raw and so new and there was none of that.
So, I fear to kinda go back in time that if the internet had been around, it would have
been alot different for me. HOST: It’s not just the internet. It’s your
smartphone isn’t it? You can walk out of the studio today and be tempted by it, can’t you?
When you look at what, an eighteen year old, not just a footballer, but being an eighteen
year old, but any eighteen year old is faced with when they go to the football or public
event, that it’s on the screen, isn’t it? You can bet on this game even. What do you
made of that Daryn? DARYN: It’s run in your face isn’t it? It’s
everywhere. Even in the ads in the AFL, right below wherever it might be and obviously when
I was betting, it wasn’t like that but obviously you get your mates at your side, footy as
well, you might have coming up asking how we go this week, when we will lose and I will
put twenty bucks on for ya or I will put a thousand for ya, whatever it might be. That’s
just the I got sucked into it. HOST: Daniel, just your take control moment? DANIEL: For me it was too strong to handle
on my own and probably all three of us had tried to get a grasp and couldn’t control
it, you know by ourselves and obviously got a hold on all three of us. You know, if you
are honest, admit you got a problem but actually trust someone to speak to that can actually
help you through the process or do the 100 day challenge or contact Gambler’s Help or
maybe put some things in place. HOST: What is the 100 days challenge?
DANIEL: So the 100 day challenge is through the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
where people can get on there and basically put themselves through an 100 day challenge
of being an 100 days free of gambling and their stories and I was lucky enough to be
involved in that. And there is stories of four people that did that and their journey
and look I’ve had several friends that I hadn’t actually realised that they had a problem
with gambling and they’ve contacted me and said they are doing this and I think it has
been a great initiative and that’s something that you mentioned before that you know just
getting at your phone and pretty easy and pretty accessible at the moment that I think
you need to involve other people because they can help you point you in the right direction
and provide that support for you from someone that you trust. I’m a gambling addict for
the rest of my life so, actually coming to that realization was one of the first steps
I reckon that all that I get involved in, whether Tatts lotto or raffles or anything
like that footy tipping. That’s the way forward for me and that’s way for the rest of my life. HOST: Just work backwards, this way on the
panel, just advise if you can can, just to I suppose, simplify not simplify, it’s too
difficult to simplify but just one piece of advise you have taken out of your journey,
someone listening to you today to help them get through what they are getting through. DANIEL: Ask for help. Speak to people that
you trust. Whether it be professionals or people close to you because without the help
of my family and friends and children and those type of people when I went through that,
I wouldn’t have survived. HOST: David? DAVID:It’s less stressful to give up what
it is to continue punting because the pressures associated with problem gambling are far greater
than that. For those who are trying to give up. It’s amazing how clear things become when
you don’t have the pressures of what problem gambling is on you. HOST: And Daryn? DARYN: Just think before you act and I had
just wanted to see how you going to do that and all of a sudden, bang, think about the
consequences and the people you going to hurt around you. HOST: Guys I really appreciate that you are
open and the honesty and really hope that people do spend the time to watch what you
have spoken about in this forum can get a message and take the advise that you have
given because you have all been really truly honest and we appreciate it.

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