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NRL legend Mario Fenech’s forgot his son’s wedding during dementia battle joked about on Footy Show

Mario Fenech’s wife has revealed the Souths legend’s battle with dementia is so severe he repeatedly forgot the day of his own son’s wedding – and couldn’t remember to make a speech at the ceremony.

The rugby league hardman’s progressively debilitating brain condition, caused by repeated head impacts, has had a devastating effect on his life.

Mario’s wife Rebecca has opened up about how his daily struggles with memory and comprehension have left the 60-year-old a shadow of the man he once was.

Mario Fenech (pictured with his wife Rebecca and children) has opened up about his battle with dementia.  Mrs Fenech says her husband's dementia is so severe he doesn't remember giving a speech at his son's wedding
Mario Fenech (pictured with his wife Rebecca and children) has opened up about his battle with dementia.  Mrs Fenech says her husband's dementia is so severe he doesn't remember giving a speech at his son's wedding

Mario Fenech (pictured with his wife Rebecca and children) has opened up about his battle with dementia. Mrs Fenech says her husband’s dementia is so severe he doesn’t remember giving a speech at his son’s wedding

Fenech had a long career in the NRL in the 1980s and 1990s - starring for the South Sydney Rabbitohs for nine seasons and playing 82 games for the North Sydney Bears (pictured above) and 11 games for the South Qld Crushers
Fenech had a long career in the NRL in the 1980s and 1990s - starring for the South Sydney Rabbitohs for nine seasons and playing 82 games for the North Sydney Bears (pictured above) and 11 games for the South Qld Crushers

Fenech had a long career in the NRL in the 1980s and 1990s – starring for the South Sydney Rabbitohs for nine seasons and playing 82 games for the North Sydney Bears (pictured above) and 11 games for the South Qld Crushers

“He doesn’t remember the moment because the next moment is the new moment,” she explained.

‘For example, when my son got married in April, I couldn’t even tell him before [the day of the ceremony].

“He knew, but in the morning I’d say, ‘Today’s the wedding’ and even during the day I’d say, ‘We’re going to the wedding today… The wedding today’.

“And I wanted to make it a special day because it was probably the last time we might all be able to celebrate.”

Fenech gave a speech at the wedding and had a very special evening with his family, but couldn’t remember anything the next morning.

Rebecca Fenech has revealed her husband was angry at being mocked on The Footy Show
Rebecca Fenech has revealed her husband was angry at being mocked on The Footy Show

Rebecca Fenech has revealed her husband was angry at being mocked on The Footy Show

“The really sad part of this story,” explained his son Joe, “is that when my parents woke up the morning after the wedding, my dad turned to my mom and said, ‘Oh, I’m really excited for the wedding, when is it?”

Another heartbreaking revelation from Fenech’s wife was that the former Footy Show star was furious after being mercilessly mocked on the long-running programme, comparing himself to a ‘circus animal’ and ‘novelty act’.

She claimed the show’s stars made fun of Fenech despite being fully aware of his harrowing health battle.

“They took the mickey out of him where he’s actually a very intelligent man – but that’s the way it went,” Ms Fenech said of the Channel Nine show.

‘You know, they obviously saw his decline on The Footy Show too. It just hasn’t been talked about, it’s silent.’

She said only three former Footy Show stars – Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin, Peter Sterling and Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach – still have some contact with Mario.

Fenech (pictured with Souths co-owner Russell Crowe) played 274 first-class matches but sadly can remember almost nothing of his incredible career due to his terminal condition
Fenech (pictured with Souths co-owner Russell Crowe) played 274 first-class matches but sadly can remember almost nothing of his incredible career due to his terminal condition

Fenech (pictured with Souths co-owner Russell Crowe) played 274 first-class matches but sadly can remember almost nothing of his incredible career due to his terminal condition

“He speaks to Fatty very occasionally or to Sterlo, sometimes Blocker, there are three of them, he speaks to maybe once or twice a year,” Ms Fenech told Channel Seven.

‘But no, we don’t hear from anyone.’

Fenech played 274 first-class matches, but sadly can barely remember any of his career due to the irreversible condition.

Doctors say despite being 60, the man nicknamed ‘Muzza’ has the brain of an ’80-year-old patient’.

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

“Every day now he wakes up and says, “I’m confused. I do not know why. I’m not feeling well,” she said. “He can’t really do or think for himself.”

Ms Fenech said she wanted to share Mario’s devastating story to highlight one of the biggest issues facing Australian sport: the long-term effects of concussion.

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