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Phil Gould reveals how his father’s death from dementia took its toll on his family

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Phil Gould reveals how his father’s death from dementia took its toll on his family as he recalls ex-teammate Mario Fenech’s battle with the devastating disease

  • Mario Fenech was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago at the age of 53
  • Phil Gould played with Fenech for South Sydney in 1986
  • He said Fenech’s battle with dementia reminded him of his late father’s ordeal
  • Gould’s father died eight years after being diagnosed with dementia

Phil Gould praised Mario Fenech as a “champion dude and a loyal friend” as he revealed that his former teammate’s struggle with dementia was a painful reminder of his late father’s struggle with the disease.

Fenech, a veteran of 274 rugby league appearances for South Sydney, North Sydney and the South Queensland Crushers, was diagnosed with early-stage dementia at age 53.

In a lengthy interview with Channel 7 over the weekend, his wife Rebecca’s condition has deteriorated to the point where he is running out of memory.

Phil Gould has revealed that Mario Fenech’s battle with dementia was a painful reminder of his late father’s struggle with the disease

The former Rabbitohs captain has advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressively debilitating brain condition caused by repeated blows to the head and ongoing episodes of concussion.

His wife told Channel 7 that he could not recall attending his own son’s wedding in April, nor giving a speech at the reception.

And Gould, who played with Fenech for Souths in 1986, revealed that his former team-mate’s condition made him reminisce about his late father.

‘My father died of dementia seven years ago,’ the Canterbury supremo wrote on Twitter, responding to a Rabbitohs fan who felt ‘sad’ watching Fenech’s interview with Channel 7.

Mario Fenech (pictured with South's co-owner Russell Crowe) played 274 first-class games, but unfortunately can barely remember anything about his incredible career due to his deadly condition

Mario Fenech (pictured with South’s co-owner Russell Crowe) played 274 first-class games, but unfortunately can barely remember anything about his incredible career due to his deadly condition

Gould, who played with Fenech for Souths in 1986, revealed he saw his former team-mate's condition evoked memories of his late father

Gould, who played with Fenech for Souths in 1986, revealed he saw his former team-mate’s condition evoked memories of his late father

He described his former teammate as a 'champion dude, tough competitor' [and] loyal friend'

He described his former teammate as a ‘champion dude, tough competitor’ [and] loyal friend’

“It took about eight years from the first diagnosis to his death. A terrible time. Plus the toll it took on my mother and family, then and since. It’s a terrible disease. I feel just as much for his family as I do for Mario.”

In a separate tweet, Gould described his former teammate as a ‘champion dude, tough competitor’ [and] loyal friend.’

Fenech can barely remember anything from his career due to the irreversible condition and doctors say the former hard-core rugby player, despite being 60, has the brain of an ’80-year-old patient’.

Fenech’s wife says the condition means his life is a constant struggle.

Fenech had a long career in rugby league in the 80s and 90s - captaining the South Sydney Rabbitohs for five seasons.  He also played 82 games for the North Sydney Bears (above) and 11 games for the South Qld Crushers

Fenech had a long career in rugby league in the 80s and 90s – captaining the South Sydney Rabbitohs for five seasons. He also played 82 games for the North Sydney Bears (above) and 11 games for the South Qld Crushers

Doctors have described Fenech as having 'the brain of an 80-year-old', despite being only 60 years old

Doctors have described Fenech as having ‘the brain of an 80-year-old’ despite being only 60 years old

“Every day now he wakes up and says, ‘I’m confused. I don’t know why. I don’t feel great,'” she told Seven.

“He can’t really act or think for himself.”

Fenech still plays golf regularly, goes to the gym and stays involved with his beloved Rabbitohs.

He still attends games and was pictured in Souths training last week ahead of their big elimination win against Cronulla on Saturday night.

Fenech said getting 'punched around the head all the time' during his career had a devastating impact on his health later in life

Fenech said getting ‘punched around the head all the time’ during his career had a devastating impact on his health later in life

He talked about the distressing effect his declining health has had on him.

“I remember getting hit on the head while playing football and it had a really bad effect on me,” he told Channel 7.

‘You have the feeling that you are going to explode, and that affects your brain. It affects your brain.

“There are times when I get really bad, just fears. It’s no fun having brain damage, mate, because I literally forget about those things.’

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