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Former AFL star Daniel Ward opens up about gambling demons

Former Demons defender Daniel Ward reveals gambling woes
DANIEL Ward has spoken about the depths to which his gambling addiction has taken him since the end of his AFL career.

Speaking to Mike Sheehan in an episode of Open Mike that will air on Tuesday, the former Melbourne defender revealed that his betting habit forced him into a rehabilitation facility three years after the Demons delisted him in 2007.

“The low point was when I got to a stage where I had to have an intervention and I went and sought help and spent time in an addiction clinic,” Ward said.

“That was in 2010 and that sent me on a path for nearly six years off.”

Ward, 39, confessed to falling back into bad habits in 2016.

“But probably most fresh in my mind is the period early last year, up until about eight months ago,” he said.

“I hoped I was through it. There were warning signs along the way and I didn’t do anything about it.

“If you are not doing the right thing, this addiction will get hold of you.”

Ward’s gambling was first brought to light in 2007, when he was one of four AFL players sanctioned for betting on matches.

The 136-game Demon was found to have placed 18 multi bets – two of which featured his own club – during his footy career.

“I like to think I am a smart, rational man, but when you are in that head space, you are not thinking too rational,” Ward continued.

“I chose to go back to bad habits and to solve my financial difficulties with punting.

“I was clean for six years, I lost my way.

“My addiction is a serious addiction and my wife, family and friends had heard a few things and whether someone spotted me going in [to the TAB], I am not sure.

“I had to face it and those questions were asked.

“It might have been a day or so where I might have lied and said that I wasn’t, because that is your natural reaction as a gambler.

“Unfortunately, you are liar and not a nice person [when addicted to gambling], but in the end, I put my hand up and said I had been doing the wrong thing.”

On the hot topic of gambling advertisements in sport, Ward admitted the presence of betting ads and bookmaker promotions during football broadcasts made him uncomfortable.

He urged anybody with similar issues to face up to their demons and seek help.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a footballer or just a citizen… the message is to get help, but they have to get it themselves and have the courage to ask for help,” Ward said.

“It is tough to admit but I didn’t have the courage and I was a bit of a coward in that way.”

Ward, who has worked with the Australian Cricketers’ Association and other organisations to address the issue of problem gambling among young athletes, also said he had offered to help the AFL and the Players’ Association combat what he believes is the biggest problem in Australian sport.

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