Sliding out of bed and unable to put on his own socks: Footy great Dermott Brereton prepares for his 26th major operation and now doubts whether his tough playing style was worth the ‘awful’ pain
- Dermott Brereton has undergone his 26th AFL-related operation on his back
- Hawthorn Hawks legend’s crippled-body is a result of his 14-season career
- Despite constant soreness from career, he says the sport has been good to him
In his playing days, AFL great Dermott Brereton was regarded among the toughest of competitors – known best for the hits he handed out but also for the punishment he copped himself.
Now, 25 years on from retirement, wracked by pain and in hospital for his 26th major surgery, the high-profile commentator admits to doubts about whether his rugged style was worth the price of his now ‘awful’ way of life.
The five-time Hawthorn premiership champion underwent back surgery on Monday in the hope of restoring physical capacities that most men of his age take for granted.
The only way Brereton, 55, can get out of bed each morning is to roll onto his front and slide off the bed onto his knees before standing.
His latest surgical ordeal comes just a year after he starred in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, where he lasted three weeks in the South African jungle.
AFL legend Dermott Brereton (pictured last year with US singer Melissa Etheridge) underwent his 26th football-related operation on his back
‘It’s a full-on procedure just to get up each day. My partner has to help me with my socks. I can’t reach down there. It’s just an awful way to live,’ Brereton told the Herald Sun.
Brereton acknowledges the brutal way he played the game in the rough-and-ready 1980s and early 1990s is the reason for his crippled body.
He also suffers headaches from the hundreds of big hits he copped on the field.
One of the heaviest and most famous came just after the opening bounce of the 1989 grand final when he was hit front-on by Geelong opponent Mark Yates in a ruthless attempt to take him out of the game.
The hit left Brereton with a bruised kidney and internal bleeding that saw him urinating blood, but he refused to show how much he was hurt and soon kicked the first of his three crucial goals in the Hawks’ epic win.
Brereton winces in pain and he receives attention from the Hawthorn trainers following the famous hit on him in the opening stages of the 1989 AFL grand final
As a marking forward in an era of contested marking, Brereton expected opponents ‘would cannon into your back from behind and everyone endures it but that’s the price that comes with the position. I got up and got on with it.
Monday’s procedure was Brereton’s 26th football-related surgery – he only counts the one requiring general anaesthetic – and it won’t be the last.
His knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and ankles have all previously been operated on and will need further surgery on his spine within the next few years.
During his career he masked the problems with hundreds of painkilling injections as he moved on from the Hawks to play with Sydney then Collingwood before he retired in 1995.
Dermott Brereton (pictured right in 1988) was known for the brutal way he played the game
While Brereton has misgivings about the physical state the game has left him in, he has no plans to seek legal redress because the sport has been good to him.
More than 100 former players have lodged legal action against the AFL in recent years as they battle with various health issues as a result of their playing careers.
Among the group include Brereton’s old Hawks teammate John Platten and former champions John Barnes and Greg Williams.
‘I love the game and always will. But if I knew how sore I was going to be now, I think I would still play the same way, but I can’t be sure. It’s just been such a physical battle the last couple of years,’ Brereton said.
The former champion turned media personality kicked 464 goals in his 211-game career that included five premierships with Hawthorn.
Brereton (pictured coaching Victoria at the EJ Whitten Legends Game last August) has a few misgivings but says football has been good to him