A former footy star has opened up about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy that was the precursor to a life of addiction and depression.
Rod ‘Rocket’ Owen, who played for St Kilda Football Club in the 1980s after debuting as a 16-year-old, revealed in an interview with the ABC he was sexually assaulted by two team managers while playing for the club’s Little League team.
Owen struggled with drug, alcohol and gambling addictions throughout his career, but said it was his father’s death playing his first season of VFL football that touched him the most.
“When he died, so did I,” he said.
‘I didn’t care if I lived or died. I’d walk down the street and wish I wasn’t there. ‘
Owen became the 11th youngest player in VFL history when he made his debut for the Saints in 1983.
Former AFL star Rod ‘Rocket’ Owen (pictured in his first official club photo at the age of 16 after signing for St Kilda) has revealed he was sexually assaulted by a Little League club manager
He debuted alongside Tony Lockett, the game’s all-time top scorer, and many who coached and played alongside Owen at the time said he was the superior talent.
Owen’s Saints career began as a child with the club’s Little League team, but in 1976 and 1977, he and several other players on the team were abused by the then-team manager and his assistant.
The abusers, Albert Briggs and Darrell Ray, used their positions as teachers at Beaumaris Primary School and St Kilda to find their victims.
Owen was nine years old when he was abused in the changing rooms of the famous MCG.
Briggs, who got a lifetime membership with the club, has since passed away, while in 2001 Ray pleaded guilty to 27 counts of indecent assault on 19 boys at the school.
Owen, now 54, says his fractured childhood of abuse and loss set the platform for a maturity of addiction, depression, and suicidal ideation.
He played 60 AFL games during his 10-year career with St Kilda and didn’t experience his first win until match 17 in 1986 – three years after his debut.
His early days with the Saints were plagued with injuries and he missed the entire 1985 season.
Owen (pictured with partner Kylie, whom he met in 2016) fell into drug addiction and depression as he suffered coping with the child abuse
Owen, now 54, is pictured above with his youngest daughter Zoe in 2003. He would bow wildly despite being a doting father to two girls
Constant use of drugs – including amphetamine, cocaine, morphine, endone and oxycontin – and alcoholism caused Owen to miss training and competitions during his formative years.
The club reportedly offered him speed tablets to try to calm him down before matches, something Owen said had the opposite effect and instead gave him a sense of ‘invincibility’.
By the age of 23, Owen had earned it a gambling debt of $ 150,000 – 10 times his annual pay package for much of his career.
Four-day drinking sessions would begin Friday afternoon, continue all weekend, and continue until Monday.
There are also reports of its infamous 63-day bender.
‘I know I’m crazy. I know that I am on a different planet. I know you’re tired of me, ”Owen once said to his teammates in tears.
After eight seasons with the Saints, Owen was traded to the Melbourne Demons, where he played nine games in 1991.
A fresh start in the north saw him play nine more games with the Brisbane Bears the following season.
At the end of the 1992 season, his AFL career was over at the age of 25.
The talented football player (pictured in 1986) tried to end his life several times after a career plagued by injuries.
Owen and Mrs. Clarke (pictured) have been sober for two years now after both hit ‘rock bottom’
Owen’s life continued to spiral out of control in the years that followed.
The benders continued despite being a loving father to daughters Layla and Zoe, 21.
Owen was sentenced to nine months in prison in 2000 after assaulting his boss
In 2016 he met his current partner Kylie Clarke. The pair both suffered from a serious drug addiction, which Rod called a “ descent to hell. ”
In two serious surgeries, he became addicted to painkillers, including Endone and OxyContin, and his relationship with his two daughters continued to deteriorate.
It took a three-month stay in rehab in 2018 to turn his life around.
Owen and Ms. Clarke have been sober together for two years, and the footy star has worked hard to mend broken relationships.
Owen recently admitted that he made multiple attempts to take his own life at the height of his drug abuse, something that has shocked St Kilda and the AFL community.
A young Rod Owen is portrayed in a 1976 team photo sitting next to Darrell Ray, who later pleaded guilty to 27 counts of indecent abuse of 19 boys
Owen’s (photo with current partner) daughter Zoe paid heartfelt tribute to her father after his devastating secret went public
Following revelations about the sexual abuse he suffered while playing for the club’s junior team and subsequent addictions he faced, Saints CEO Matt Finnis apologized on behalf of the club.
He promised to help Owen through the next stages of his life.
“I talked to Rod about his experiences with senior football, but my apologies and support offered on behalf of the club in that context now feel inadequate given this revelation and his story,” Mr. Finnis told the ABC.
That Rod has endured this abuse is so shocking and that he has carried this terrible burden for so long is heartbreaking.
“For the club, it is devastating that any of this happened under the name of the Saints, and I promise Rod and his family and our supporters that we will do everything we can to make this right.”
Owen’s daughter Zoe paid heartfelt tribute to her father after his devastating secret became public.
“Your story is finally being told and I am so happy and proud of you,” she captioned a look back at her as a little girl with her dad on Saturday.
This is the perfect example of why you should never judge someone for who they are before taking the time to hear what they went through to end up the way they did. If you or someone you know may be hiding his pain with substances, reassure him that it won’t make the next few days more beautiful and that there are always other ways.
“I’m always here to talk to someone, you’ll always be a superstar to me, Dad.”
If you or someone you know needs support, please contact Lifeline at 13 11 14, MensLine Australia at 1300789978 or Beyond Blue at 1300224636.
Owen’s abusers Albert Briggs and Darrell Ray used their positions as teachers at Beaumaris Primary School and St Kilda to find their victims