Dean Laidley’s friends reportedly tried to get him to rehab to deal with his ‘out-of-control’ drug use just days before he was arrested on stalking charges dressed as a woman.
The AFL great’s lifestyle choices have been ‘an open secret’ within the league for a long time, Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph told AFL Tonight on Monday.
The 53-year-old was arrested on Saturday night, wearing a dress and a blonde wig, and charged with stalking and breaching a family violence order, among a raft of other offences.
Just a fortnight before the highly publicised arrest, those in Laidley’s inner circle had reportedly been urging him to check in to rehab.
‘Those who knew him well knew about his drug use,’ Mr Ralph said. ‘They despaired against their inability to try and get him into a rehab facility.’
Photos of Dean Laidley in police custody (one pictured) were leaked online as he was charged with stalking and breaches of a family violence order
Laidley pictured in June 2009 as the North Melbourne head coach. His mother said she last saw her son at Christmas time and that he she had no concerns when they spoke last Wednesday
The North Melbourne premiership player was still employed as the Maribyrnong Football Club coach, and was trying to get some of his players drafted.
‘No-one expected this,’ Mr Ralph said.
The Herald Sun described his drug use as ‘out-of-control’, while Mr Ralph said: ‘Lets face it, some of his lifestyle choices have been known, they’ve been an open secret in the AFL for quite some time, potentially up to decades.’
Two photos of the father-of-three during his arrest were leaked by an officer inside the police station. One showed Laidley wearing a blonde wig, makeup and a dress. The other was his mugshot taken from a police file.
The senior constable who allegedly leaked his photo has been suspended with pay and faces up to two years in jail if found guilty.
Laidley reportedly demanded to be called ‘Daniella’ during his police interview, according to The West Australian.
His mother Carmel Friburg said she was ‘just as gobsmacked as everyone’ at the charges and said she had no concern about her son when they spoke last week.
Dean Laidley enjoys Christmas last year with his mother Carmel Friburg. She said she is ‘just as gobsmacked as everyone’ at the ex-AFL star’s arrest on seven charges including stalking and committing an indictable offence while on bail
One photo which appeared to show his mugshot taken from a police file was also leaked
‘I spoke to him on Wednesday and he seemed to be OK,’ she told The West Australian from her home in Perth’s northern suburbs.
‘It’s just hard for me to believe – he’s always been level-headed, he’s never been in any trouble or anything like that.’
Laidley’s mother said she last saw him at Christmas time and he appeared to be his normal self other than some physical pain.
‘He wasn’t well… he has got something from playing football, it’s like arthritis [in his knees], that he has a lot of pain with,’ she said.
His lawyer Dee Giannopoulos said during Laidley’s appearance at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Sunday he urgently needed to be seen by a mental health nurse.
‘Outraged that pictures of my client, taken by some police officer, on the sly, when in custody in interview have hit the media. Typical,’ Ms Giannopoulos wrote on Twitter following the release of the pictures.
A magistrate noted it was the 1996 Premiership winner’s first time in custody.
Laidley’s AFL coaching career has seen him spend time with the Kangaroos, Carlton (pictured in 2015) St Kilda and Port Adelaide
A source told Daily Mail Australia Laidley’s collapse into despair had been on public display about the Moonee Ponds area in recent months before the COVID-19 lockdown.
A disheveled Laidley – or ‘Tunnel’ as he is known – had been seen getting about town barefooted.
Sources claim his ‘lifestyle choices’ were well known among his mates and in AFL circles and had become accepted, with many in Laidley’s inner circle after his arrest lamenting not doing more to help their troubled mate.
His former teammates have meanwhile rallied behind the AFL identity and expressed ‘overwhelming sadness’ after he was arrested while dressed in women’s clothes.
‘He’s [allegedly] done some things outside the law, and the processes will kick in from there, so you’ve got to put that to the front of the conversation. That’ll play itself out,’ Laidley’s former North Melbourne teammate David King told Fox Footy on Monday night.
‘I didn’t have any idea that he was at this stage, but you send the text, you know he’s gonna get better eventually, you tell him you love him and you want to help him whenever he’s ready.
‘I don’t want to get involved in where he’s been and this historical stuff. It’s just overwhelming sadness at this whole situation.’
Laidley’s former teammates are rallying to support his family, including Anthony Stevens and Brent Harvey.
David King played in the Kangaroos 1996 premiership winning side with Laidley and offered his love and support to his mate
‘It’s obviously a really, really sensitive situation that we find ourselves in right now,’ Harvey said.
‘I think all I can say on it is I hope everybody involved in the whole situation, well-being is the number one thing.’
Mystery surrounds exactly what led to Laidley being taken into custody last weekend.
Photos of him dressed as a woman and of his mug shot weer plastered across the Internet on Sunday night.
A Senior Constable from the southern metropolitan region has been suspended with pay over the scandal.
He has been interviewed for criminal conduct and is expected be charged on summons with unauthorised disclosure of information.
The offence carries a two-year maximum jail term and $40,000 in fines.
The officer will also face internal disciplinary action and could be sacked from Victoria Police.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton apologised to Laidley over the incident and said detectives would ‘leave no stone unturned’ in determining how the images got out.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton apologised to Laidley for the leak of his images from a police station
Laidley leading the North Melbourne Kangaroos at a training session in 2004. He coached the Kangaroos for seven seasons
Police believe the policeman may have shared the photos with anywhere up to six friends – some of whom may also be police officers.
‘I am appalled an employee of Victoria Police has taken these photographs,’ Mr Patton said.
‘It is unacceptable conduct. It is appalling conduct and there is no place for it in our organisation.
‘This is a breach of privacy, a breach of human rights and we are taking the matter extremely seriously.’
Police Minister Lisa Neville said the person who had leaked the photos from inside a police station acted in an ‘idiotic’ way.
‘It was an idiotic thing to do,’ she said.
Laidley appeared before Deputy Magistrate Jelena Popovic on Sunday night.
There Ms Popovic heard he was at risk in jail because it was his first time inside.
Laidley played 151 games for North Melbourne and West Coast before he retired in 1997 (pictured after retirement in 1998 at his former club)
While Laidley was known for his colourful personality off-field, he was also clinging to deep seeded torment dating back to his coaching days.
In 2006, Laidley had sought counselling after being ‘haunted’ by the image of a fan he clashed with during a game, who later committed suicide.
The man, a Kangaroos member in his late 30s, was hit by a train at Seaford on the Frankston line almost 14 years ago to the month.
Laidley had twice had words with the Kangaroos fan as he walked through the crowd to address his players during a clash with St Kilda.
The ugly clash was captured on TV and the AFL was forced to investigate.
‘I am distraught and feel for the family,’ Laidley said, fighting back tears at the time.
‘I just can’t believe someone’s passed away. I am still coming to terms with that. I offer them my full support.’
Laidley reiterated that he had merely invited the man down to the rooms after the second clash to see how much the players were hurting.
‘I am haunted by his image,’ Laidley said. ‘I can’t get the face out of my head.’
Laidley will remain behind bars until he appears in court via videolink on May 11.
Sources have claimed that Laidley’s lifestyle choices were well known among his mates and in AFL circles and had become accepted. He was arrested on Saturday amid allegations he is a stalker
His lawyer Dee Giannopoulos appeared to confirm the photo was of her client on Sunday evening
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DEAN LAIDLEY
Laidley grew up in Balga in Perth’s north and played senior football for the West Perth Football Club.
He made his debut for the West Coast Eagles in 1987, where he played 52 games before being traded to the North Melbourne ahead of the 1993 season.
He won a premiership with the Kangaroos in 1996 and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
His willingness to commit to contested balls earned him the nickname of ‘The Junkyard Dog’.
Laidley pictured when he signed as the coach of the North Melbourne Kangaroos in 2002 – signing a three-year deal with his former club
His coaching career includes seven seasons with the Kangaroos between 2003 and 2009.
Laidley also spent time with Port Adelaide, St Kilda and Carlton.
He and his family were attacked by bouncers at the Bounty night club in Bali after his daughter’s wedding in 2011.
His son received a broken jaw while Laidley required stitches after being hit in the head with a bottle.
He is currently a coach of Maribyrnong Park in the Essendon Districts Football League, having started there in 2019.