Manly NRL legend Brett Stewart talks about how he finally sought mental health help after his life was forever destroyed by the false accusation he raped a 17-year-old girl
- Star was accused of an attack in 2009
- Was found not guilty in court in 2010
- For support contact Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
It’s been 12 years since he sobbed in court when he was acquitted of a trumped-up charge that he raped a 17-year-old girl, but Brett Stewart has only just decided to reach out to mental health professionals to share the shocking effect of the incident on his life.
A jury took less than two hours to find the champion ex-Manly fullback not guilty of one charge of assault and two charges of assault in September 2010, with the emotion of the occasion leaving Stewart in tears.
The premiership-winning Sea Eagles icon was subject to intense investigation after the girl claimed he assaulted her in Manly on March 6, 2009 – an allegation he always vehemently denied.
He and his brother Glenn, a fellow Manly star, were outraged by the news coverage of the incident and then NRL boss David Gallop’s decision to ban him for four games, despite the allegations not being heard in court. were heard.
Stewart has kept a very low profile ever since, especially for a player of his stature, rarely breaking his silence on the matter – but made an exception on Sunday.
Stewart (pictured leaving court in Manly on May 3 on an unrelated matter) had his life torn apart by the false accusation, making him reluctant to trust people
At the time he was first charged in 2009, Stewart was one of the game’s best and most high-profile players, but has kept an extremely low profile since his retirement.
“I love the game of rugby, the people, the friends I’ve made and the success of our team, but unfortunately my life has been forever changed after the events of 2009,” he told the The Sydney Morning Heraldwho reported that he is being helped by medical professionals.
“I’ve made some significant strides forward in my mental health, and that journey has only just begun.”
At the time the false allegations surfaced, the 38-year-old was one of the best players in the NRL and had a suitably high profile that placed him alongside other superstars such as Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis.
But that all came crashing down when he was charged by the police and his world came crashing down.
He gave a rare interview on the subject in 2019 when he pleaded with the NRL to treat players accused of crimes as innocent until proven guilty.
“It’s too big a thing in my life to just block. There will always be something burning inside me,” he said.
Stewart said his heart was broken by the effect the allegations and resulting legal saga and media scrutiny had on his friends and loved ones
Despite the toll the case took on the premiership-winning fullback (pictured with rock star Jimmy Barnes), he still managed to feel “a little sorry” for the girl who accused him.
“I could sit here and say I blocked it, but then I’d be lying. It affected me then and probably still will affect me now.
“I don’t trust many people anymore, whereas before it happened I was quite open and talked to everyone. Now I’m a bit more closed off, a closed book.
“The hardest part was my family. I knew I was strong enough to get through it, but the people around you, that’s the hardest part.
“The people you don’t see, your loved ones, friends and family, extended friends and family. It touches them. That’s what broke my heart.
“People probably forget because I’m not there or they don’t see me the way they used to, but it’s part of my makeup now.”
When he was finally acquitted by the jury, he revealed he had been ’empty’ inside since the night he met the girl who accused him – but he also felt ‘a little sorry’ for the girl after it was revealed in court that she had been diagnosed with a mental illness.