Ex-AFL Stars Open Up About Gambling – Extended Version

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 ex 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 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: There’s so many aspects we have to discuss
over the next period of time. I supposed one of the things, that has already come out in
the short chat we had to this point is, just acknowledging the the problem. Is that the
key to any point, for all of you? DAVID: I think it is. No one wants to admit
that they have got weaknesses and issues and I think the three of us – I’ve spoken to Cresswell
and Daniel about this but, you are proud, because you get to the highest level of sport
and you think there are times you are invincible. So, you don’t think anything can go wrong.
So, it’s really tough to sit there and look yourself in the mirror and say, Okay you’ve
got issues. You need help. And the great thing is, with the footy community, when you do
put your hand up and ask for help, it’s amazing how many people come running to give you as
much help as they can give. I think alot fear is with people not wanting to put their hand
up because they fear that they going to get whacked over the head or it is going to be
made public. You know for me, that is the greatest thing. As soon as it went public,
I had more eyes and alot of pressure on. Alot of people putting out their hands saying,
I’m here to help and that’s the most comforting thing about it. There were so many people
willing to put in, as long as you do, as long as you put in the hard yards, there will be
a lot of people are willing to go along for the ride as well. HOST: What was the lowest point that you experience,
when you remembered. Was the day and if you can reflect upon that, weekend when you turned
around and a quarter of a million dollars and without really thinking about it. When
you look back on it, was that the moment for you? And as you do answer that question, you
wouldn’t mind relaying that story for our watchers. DARYN: I was down probably about two hundred
and forty seven thousand thousand or two hundred and thirty nine thousand, was the two hundred
and fifty thousand dollar limit. And it was a Sunday morning so I had thirteen thousand
to play with them and I ended up by the end of the Sunday, seventeen thousand upfront
but that’s whole thing about gambling is about the big win and then, the next Monday I am
looking at what horses are going around. Tuesday on the internet, all that type of things.
So you are always looking to win big all the time. Alot of gamblers will tell you about
their big wins but not about their big losses. Quite alot of us have more losses than wins
at the end. But, the turning point for me was, even before I went to court. I wasn’t
totally convinced that I had a problem. I thought I could just walk out of it, but when
you get sentenced and you look across and you see, your family and your wife and everybody
around in tears and upset that going away for ten months made me do alot of thinking
and reflection on what had happened. And obviously not having that addiction or that obviously
when you are in jail, you can’t bet, so obviously that sorta helped me in my recovery and taught
me alot about patience in life in general.And certainly I need to get from the bottom to
my feet for sure. HOST: David, you have got a similar story
in here. There was a big that was celebrated at the time you were doing it. All the big
wins and I’ve read your book and there were millions of dollars lost by you when it was
all undone. Just when you can, as you talk here, just explain the highs that you get
but ultimately they become the biggest lows, don’t they? DAVID: They do. Money become irrelevant, whether
one dollar or a hundred thousand, it all mean nothing. And it was to the point where, it
was kind of you against the system. And you would think, and I think that has been spoken
on behalf of the other two guys. You almost believe that you can do things that normal
people can’t do and that’s to beat the system, which you can’t. It’s not built that way.
And you fill that up with alcohol which, I used to love betting and having a drink with
my mates. You become bullet-proof. It’s not about. In the end, it wasn’t about winning
or losing. It was just having to put a bet on and having that adrenaline going through
the system. I speak to alot of people about punting now. And most, 99% of the population
can handle it. You can go down and have a bet and it doesn’t affect you. My mom can,
most of my friends can. For those 1 per cent that don’t, we are the issue and we have got
to understand that it just doesn’t work for us.We can’t do that. So, I can go back in
and ever bet again. If I do, I know what will happen. As I said before, the help is super
important. I had a partner at the time that stood by me, that actually made me and help
me understand the value of money again. It’s really important the fact that money becomes
understandable. As a footballer, you earn it easily and you can lose it easily, but
you always remember that at the end of the day, there is probably another nine thousand
dollars a week jumping into your pay packet. HOST: We will be touching on the footy environment
soon. Just, your story too. There are lies told aren’t there? When you have a gambling
addiction. It is just almost a natural outcome of what it is it is you are going through
and you obviously hurt people when you lie to those closest to you, don’t you? DANIEL: Yeah massively and probably alot like
the other two, some of the stories I came up with, I could write Hollywood scripts for.
You think about it now and – HOST: Give an example of some of the stuff
you did say to your nearest and dearest? DANIEL: I couldn’t. There is.. I couldn’t
actually give you one. Probably one is the fact that I countless amounts of times would
and for the other fact to gamble may sound crazy, the amount of times. If I had twenty
dollars in my wallet, I would rather go and punt with that than, have a feed, put petrol
in my car. The amount of times I run out of fuel in the car, just because I gambled things.
I would rather turn that twenty into hundred and full tank and a feed later you know all
that type of stuff. It’s something that when I think back on, I am not very proud but you
know the big thing with me, and I struggle with it for a long time was that we did think
that we could beat the system and you know just that one win and I was over it, I had
enough of gambling. But you created all these debts and drama and I just wanted to get out
of that and that kept bringing you back. For me was the fact like Schwartz said, putting
my hand up and saying you can’t beat the system. You are not where you should be but you know,
you are going to end up a hell of a lot worse. HOST: People become gambling addicts through
any course of life. The three of you were obviously footballers at the highest level.
The footballer environment, be it an AFL club, just a general that makes you, always at play
within the footy club. Did it contribute to what you guys went through? Did it actually
facilitate it? Did it make you more difficult to overcome once it was apparent that you
had problems? DAVID: It hits all the demographics – Males,
alot of the single, high money earners, lot of spare time. The club environment suggest
for you that they are there for for your back. Also, if you happen to do something wrong,
the club will fix it, will cover it over. You got so many people just there to support
you. You almost think, well hang on I am in a previleged position here. I am going to
take advantage of it. Plus when I walked into the Melbourne footy club and I think Ward
here would be the same, the culture was to gamble. You know, most social events were
around gambling. Alot of our social activities were at the casino or a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
So, every danger sign you speak to and people about and young kids, the footy club had around
them. So, it was up to the leadership group to really pull that in and identify and I
don’t think that was done too well, at our club in particular. HOST: You were basically the peak of your
football, weren’t you when you got to the height of your gambling problems. Do you look
back on those, do you feel your behaviour influenced others? DAVID: Yeah, maybe. I always, I accept responsibility
for all my actions and I think everyone else should too. You know Ward came in as a young
man. I never forced him to put his hand in his pocket and put it on. So, I don’t take
responsibility for individuals. But, for the culture itself and maybe the activities we
were running, I do accept some responsibility. But, not for one moment do I sit here and
feel any guilt that any other players went down that path. HOST: Because of what happened to you? DAVID: Directly for what I was doing. I was
a solitary panel. I don’t think I ever gambled with Daniel. I didn’t gamble with too many
Melbourne players. I like to do it on my own. I like to do it, you know in almost anonymity.
And now, because punting has changed so much – HOST: I was going to say, you can do it now,
because you can do punting anonymously, can’t you. But you couldn’t have in your days. I
mean you are all public gamblers whether at a TAB or casino – DAVID: Or at the racetrack. HOST: It is actually easier now isn’t it?
To gamble. Do you all agree with that? Not that you are, but? DARYN: I started at the counter, I was just
betting numbers. I had cash and it was easy to do that and all of a sudden, it costed
twenty grand but, you go and hand twenty grand to TAB and you will feel alot worse than actually
doing it over the phone, when it is just a number. So, there is really some downfalls,
I reckon in today’s society with gambling and the council and alot of credit, you can
get. HOST: I’m real familiar with your story Daryn.
I mean you drew into a mortgage and transferred money around and obviously that’s what people
can do even today, isn’t it? That facility is open to people if they chose to go down.
I mean you are aware of current day footballers similarly dealing with problems like yourself? DARYN: Yeah at the current stage, I’m aware
of one. Well known and very strong at a very strong and successful club and obviously withdrawing
facilities does happen largely over housing and it builds up over time and that’s something
I did and it’s easy to do and like as Ward said, the amount of debts you incur and you
lose a big number of money one day and you want to forget about it, but then obviously
the phone calls and people chasing up for money. It’s a bad situation to be in. And
you look at the rugby league player Ryan Tandy and the situation he got himself into now
and unfortunately he’s not here with us but, there are situations I went through and I
just couldn’t amount the pressure and the eyes that were on me at that stage and and
in Tasmania, it’s hard to deal with. And obviously it is important to have strong people around
you and good people to help you get through that. Like, when I went in, I didn’t know
what was going to be on the other side. When I came back out and some of the people that
wrote me letters and actually come and visited me, really sorta helped me alot in my spirit
to go forward and make something out of myself and through those people I am probably in
the best position I have ever been in since I was playing at the Swans, so I’m really
in a great place and just really want to help any other people that is in that situation,
because it is easier I’ve done. I was sitting in those meetings as a twenty six, twenty-seven
year old AFL player, and they used to come and talk about responsible gambling etc. I
never bet in my life, what are they talking about? All of a sudden, within two years,
I was addicted and it can happen that easily. HOST: Daniel, the shame that comes and you
guys have mentioned, the embarrassment and the stigma attached you all have been through
and admirably you all got through. But, do you mind just diving into that shame that
you touched on a moment ago, so you fully tell the stories, the depths you go through,
so how much you don’t, couldn’t even look at the door sometimes to face the real world. DANIEL: Yeah, it’s not so much, I am a big
boy, the shame and guilt and all that. You know you have to deal with it sooner or later.
As a man, you need to stand up and cope that. But it’s probably more the people closest
to you as well that get affected. You know my wife, and she has to deal with alot of
these and stuff and even to this day, we are still trying to get ourselves out of the mess
and that’s sorta shame and guilt I feel for what I’ve forced upon others. We mentioned
before about lies that’s I’ve told and it’s hard to have those conversations with close
friends and family that I told that to and even some of those relationships are still
hard to amend now. It’s a long process, but my life four years down the track is hell
of alot better than what it was, four years ago and I didn’t see a way out then. Your
choice. You know if you are doing the right thing, you putting your hand up, generally
people will give you their time of the day and realise you have made errors and if you
are willing to make up for them, they can help. 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 have this
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 arrow, this enormous weight comes
off. And, it’s like your next challenge in life. You say, Right up, let’s get into it. That’s the way you go, and for those that are experiencing difficulties in gambling, that decision away from actually
becoming the person you want to 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 been when you had made the decision earlier.
HOST: I see you both nodding as David spoke about the money drying up being the trigger point. Now that you know what you know and people listening to
you speak today about this problem. What would be the trigger point
now, in hindsight for, maybe you Daryn? I know the money dried up to your
point where the court system got to you. But, when you look back, when should you have acted. And I ask that question just for people who are probably watching this
thinking I’ve got that problem, I’ve still got money to burn
though. What would you say to that person?
DARYN: When you are waking up every
morning, or before you get to bed every night, you get that something
amazing is going to happen the next day. And the money did dry
up for me. That’s right. The biggest mistake I made is that I didn’t
come out early enough and obviously ask for help.And you can’t do
it by yourself. There’s no way that I could have done this by myself.
So, it’s important, obviously that you ask for help and you try
and get the best support you can.But certainly, it’s hard to
do that. I’ve found it very difficult. Obviously like Wayne said, you got alot of pride and you being built up as an AFL player and you don’t like to
give up. And I was looking for that next big win. If I win fifteen,
twenty grand, I will be alright. I’ll give up then. But it’s
never gonna happen. HOST: You all referred to partners and families
as a mechanism that’s been absolutely crucial to you emerging 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. 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. Partner’s gone. Family’s not there.
There 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 then 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 department 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 the 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 for on for ya and win it back or I will put a thousand
for ya, whatever it might be. That’s just the way I got sucked into it. Being introduced to a well known jockey through buying a car.
That’s how easily it happened for me, all of a sudden. My first
bet of thousand dollars went twelve thousands dollars and I thought
Geez, how easy is this? So that how it happened.
HOST: David, how much money did you estimate to have lost just through punt.
DAVID: Around about four. Four million. So pretty much everything that I
earned throughout. I was pretty good at eating so I kinda put a couple
all in and break it all down. If I didn’t gamble and I worked
it back, because I have had properties and so forth, worth between fifteen and twenty
five million right now. I think not having that money, is a huge wake
up call.
HOST: Daniel do you want to put in something as well? You
don’t have to.
DANIEL: Well I’m happy to. Probably fewer gambling. Probably
around a million dollar mark. Again, that’s something to live with
everyday. By no means these four years down the track, we ran to
and we’ve got two kids and we struggle at work through two or three
jobs and but that’s life for me and I can’t change what I did and I need to deal with it. But sometimes, they can get you down thinking
about that and looking back but you can’t change it.
HOST: Your situation played out publicly to a point, didn’t it? Are you able to put a figure on the exact amount roughly or if you do not want to, I mean don’t. Asking if you want to?
DARYN: I would say somewhere about a million and a half. 1.5
roughly. I lost pretty much everything I had. All my properties etc
I was running out but I was very lucky that a club I catch up
now has been great for me, has set me up with business and we have just built recently,
so I am starting to get myself back on my feet again which is great.
HOST: The key message here is just taking control of your situation. David, you all talk now that you are in control now.
What has been the key component in taking control of something that
was so out of control.
DAVID: Honesty for me. To yourself. To the
people around you. I rememeber when this all hit the fan, my partner
at that time said, just tell me the truth. Tell me the truth.
Don’t leave anything out and it will work out. I remember when I left
something out and because I –
HOST: Deliberately?
DAVID: No no, it was just something that I had forgotten about and it was a debt of eleven
thousand dollars debt that I swept it under and forgotten about.
And it came back and that nearly ended our relationship because
all she asked was to be honest and I forgotten about this one thing
and pleaded with her and she gave me that one chance and from that
day on, I just said, right. This is it. Go back. Remember and be
honest. Be honest with yourself and be honest with everyone else
and you will be alright and from that day on, I don’t think I have
ever told Karen You can’t get yourself into trouble. You can’t get yourself into trouble. You have got nothing to hide. You haven’t got, you are
not telling these people stories and these people stories and trying to get this whole
thing which is your life to make sense. Told the truth and it goes a long way to you being
honest with yourself and other people. HOST: Daniel, just your take control moment?
DANIEL: Yeah probably,
both the guys mentioned it – Honesty is the first thing. Probably for people out there, Crezzyn also mentioned the support. For me it was too strong to handle on my own and probably all three
of us had tried to get a grasp and 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
trust someone to speak to that can actually help you through the process or look do the 100 day challenge or do I 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 100 days free of gambling and their stories and I was lucky enough to
be 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 initative
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. DAVID: I went through the journey with Ward a few
years ago, when he started to go down the path of non gambling and I know how hard it was for him because he had so much baggage to clean up. But thankfully he saw through that
and saw the bigger picture and it’s a good story. DANIEL: 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, 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 back, this
way on the panel, just advise if you 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, for someone listening to you today to help them get through what they are getting
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
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. 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 just wanted to see how you 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 your openness 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 really appreciate it.

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