Paul Salmon article BULLYING

This may be of some interest. Not sure if this is the right spot to post.

Mark Robinson
Paul Salmon reveals ‘dark thoughts’ during first two years at Essendon
May 12, 2017 6:00pm
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PAUL Salmon was hailed as the next John Coleman when he arrived at Essendon in 1981.

And he was bullied for it. Bullied by some of his teammates.

It is an extraordinary revelation by Salmon, who says he does not dislike any of his former teammates and that it was simply a different time with different attitudes.

“It would be considered bullying nowadays, there’s no doubt about that,” Salmon says.

“Nowadays the bullying would be managed; back then it was considered humorous, although it had a negative impact on me.

“You’ve got to realise, if you did your hair after training back then you were considered soft.’’

Young, unique and super talented, Salmon symbolised success as the Bombers began one of the most dominant periods in the history of the club.

If only Salmon could have enjoyed it as much as a kid should.

It’s kind of sad that in a week in which Salmon was celebrated for his 10 goals against Geelong in Round 6, 1993 — Gary Ablett Sr kicked 14 up the other end — he has revealed his troubling first three years at Windy Hill.

If not for leaving for Hawthorn at the end of 1995, would Salmon have enjoyed his football career at all?

Paul Salmon started his career in a blaze of glory — on the field.
Those early days pained him. There were times he didn’t want to go training. He didn’t socialise much with most of his teammates. He lost a mate to suicide. He had dark thoughts himself after wrecking his knee midway through the 1984 season.

There’s no statute of limitations on bullying and, although he didn’t allow it to infiltrate his life after those early years, the big “Fish” has not forgotten the challenging welcome to Windy Hill.

Call it jealousy. Hide it behind the team-first mantra driven by coach Kevin Sheedy. Disguise it as “hanging s—” on the young bloke getting ahead of himself.

Salmon, recruited from North Ringwood, became a megastar after just 20 games and some of his teammates had as much trouble dealing with that as Salmon did.

Try to appreciate the Salmon story if you don’t know it.

He was zoned to Essendon, recruited to play under-19s and by everyone’s reckoning, at 200cm he was going to be the ants pants.

In nine games in 1983, he kicked 14 goals.

In 13 games in 1984, he kicked 63 goals, starting the season with seven, seven, eight, four, five and eight goals.

He was 19 and he was the big show in town — front page, back page, TV news and radio gaga — until he tore his ACL in a game against Collingwood on June 23, 1984.

He was never the same, despite going on to play more than 300 games.

He was a ruckman playing forward, lost some of his agility and leap, and clearly the mental battle took a toll. How much? Not even Salmon knows.

Today’s revelation isn’t a cry for help or a woe-is-me moment. He says the teammates dishing it out back then wouldn’t think anything of their behaviour.

Tim Watson certainly didn’t know any of the situation. He recently sat with Salmon, who revealed for the first time his darkest days in football.

Paul Salmon is carried from the field after wrecking his knee in 1984.
Salmon told the Herald Sun they were “heady” times.

“I was getting smashed from one thing to the next and whereas everyone on the outside perceived I was on top of the world, I was unprepared for what was going on all my life,” he said.

“I dealt with it. I had to change a number of things about how I went about it. I was an innocent boy, but I was public property and I had to walk a fine line between trying to do the right thing by the club and trying to be integrated as a teammate.

“There were a lot of superstars in that team and I didn’t think it was justified me getting all that attention. I was embarrassed about it.

“A lot was happening in retrospect and maybe what I was copping from teammates was justified.”

Asked how stressful a period it was, he said: “I loved playing footy, I loved going to games and I won’t deny it I was enjoying the results and attention, but it came at a cost.

“It was a different era. I was a tall, local kid going to Eastland one minute and the next I was a novelty going down to the shopping centre, getting photographs, giving autographs. In context, I couldn’t go outside anymore without having some engagement.’’

And at the club?

“I went from a young bloke trying to get a game and be part of the team to being singled out in very much a team environment,” he said.

“Sheedy had galvanised a real team environment and I was very self-conscious of that … I was ■■■■■■ 19 and I was getting whacked by teammates every time you get on the front of the paper, on the training track … I don’t think I was ready for all that.

“I didn’t enjoy going to training much because I knew I was going to cop it. Just the context of me getting all this attention, which I wasn’t asking for.’’

Salmon didn’t name names, said there were no such thing back then as welfare officers and, as far as he can remember, the only person he confided in was Dr Bruce Reid.

Dealing with his teammates as a young upstart was one issue and dealing with suicide was another.

Paul Salmon says his first two years at Essendon shaped his life. Picture: Ian Currie
At the end of 1983, after the Bombers lost the premiership, a mate named Gary Syme — who grew up in Doncaster, which meant the pair often caught taxis home from the club together — committed suicide on New Year’s Eve.

“It had a huge impact on me,’’ Salmon said. “And I came out of that period much stronger. I had resolved to have a really big pre-season that year. I found out I could play in ’83, and then Gary really rocked me, and I suppose I really hit the accelerator after that.”

Still, after the swashbuckling start to ’84, Salmon would have similar dark thoughts after injuring his knee.

“I had a moment undeniably, I probably had several moments,’’ Salmon said.

“The reality was I might never play again … was I suicidal? I would say I was pretty down and in a hole and no question I had some pretty dark thoughts.”

Salmon played 324 games and kicked 561 goals for Essendon and Hawthorn across 19 seasons and was inducted in the AFL Hall of Fame in 2009.

His career was a very good one. It may have been one of the all-time great ones if not for the knee and, maybe less so, the bullying.

“They were pretty extraordinary years, those first couple,” he said

“I don’t reflect on them as really happy years, but my life really turned around after I met my wife, Jo. I was 20 and life became a lot more rounded.

“But that whole period shaped my life. I found out a lot about myself at that time. I knew I couldn’t trust football. I didn’t rely on football for a sense of self worth.’’


70’s and 80’s were brutal times for everyone and that “blokey” attitude was common where ever you worked. Sicked big time so I can understand his words.


Footy clubs are still like that and if your sensitive to it your gonna have a hard time.

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Males sporting environments are rife with this stuff.

Slightly different scenario. Graeme Le Saux copped it hard when he was at Chelsea for apparently being gay. Just because he had different interests in arts and because he read The Guardian, even though he was married with kids.


During this period I used to see Fish at the Syndal Swim Centre a fair bit as a kid, his girlfriend (now wife) used to do the aerobics classes upstairs I believe. One morning he came over and said “g’day”, pretty sure my Dad orchestrated it but that was huge to me. Would spot his Commodore in the car park with the personalised number plate FISH03, something like that.

Someone (who can’t spell) has uploaded on YouTube the entire last quarter of Salmon’s Round 1 debut against Sydney. For size, he just stands out a mile in that era and while he didn’t have a huge impact on that game, boots a couple of goals (around the 17:00 mark) one out of nowhere and doesn’t celebrate either of them. The second goal is a belter for a big guy and put us in front. You can tell he was a highly awkward young kid in a man’s world even then, not yet comfortable in his own skin.

Men in most western societies are still far too proud, embarrassed or ashamed to show or express vulnerability.


A good article, even though it was totally unexpected. He was a unique talent when he burst onto the scene, no doubt about it. He was unstoppable, and teams could not find a good match up for him. the Dawks played a ruckman on him and he killed them because he had more pace and once in front he couldn’t really be spoiled,

l used to enjoy going out to Windy Hill early to watch him run around in the twos. It was obvious he was going to be a huge talent, a marquee player in the emerging super team. Then Raines fell across his knee and the injury put all that in doubt, in a split second. It was the only time l ever went to the Pies ground. We won anyway, but the future had a huge fish shaped cloud over it. Had he said anything at the time to the other players, he would have copped even more, and stronger abuse in return.

l wonder how Watson and Van Der Haar would have handled similar comments, breaking into the team and starring at such young ages. Perhaps the players making the comments thought they were only trying to stop him getting a big head, perhaps there was some jealous. Who knows?


His 1st career at Essendon was book-ended by sh*tness. It’s a miracle he has any fondness for that club at all. I couldn’t believe the flak he copped from the fans and media in 94/95.


A history of possibly cruel ribbing from his teammates. Then the fans booing him. Put them together and it explains some of the reasons for leaving the club. But he did come back, after all. Didn’t he.

Legend. Had the 3 on my woolen jumper in primary school, love him.


I hated the ■■■■ he copped from ‘supporters’… extremely disappointing that he also copped it from some team mates too.


I wasn’t old enough to remember this, but why did he cop it? Though I do think we have several supporters who are “not right”, so it doesn’t surprise me unfortunately.

I reckon it was due to a combination of the side not meeting expectations post 1993 + Salmon’s reduced output due to being played primarily as a forward.

Why did Kevin Walsh cop it? Why did Jetta cop it? Why does Stanton cop it?
It’s not like they go out of their way to stuff up.
But there’s an element out there who have never made a mistake in their lives. Who think that every guy who pulls on an Essendon jumper should play like Hird (mind you I can recall even Hird missing a shot, missing a target and dropping a mark).
People just have to hang it on someone. And I guess when you’re 2 metres tall, move like a rover, can take a huge grab and kick goals from everywhere, some supporters expect you to win every game off your own boot.
Salmon was/is a top bloke and never deserved the crap he got from over the fence.
Sorry about that rant but I do feel better now.


I don’t remember any hatred of Fish during his Essendon days. I ■■■■■■■ loved watching him play and I recall many people had the number 3 on their back.


Reading stuff like this just makes me think, ■■■■ the people bagging Daniher for having fun and enjoying himself on the field


His treatment by “fans” during that final against West coast in 95 was the only time I’ve been embarrassed to be an Essendon supporter.


I thought that part of the reason for Salmon going to the Dawks was a falling out with Sheedy over the position he was playing him in. I also remember the way some of the fans turned on him, which was disgusting and must have hurt him terribly.


He’s the reason I barrack for Essendon today. Legend.


Fast forward to 20 years in the future, and looking back - nothing has changed.

I bet back then the response would have been “don’t try and hush us! we’re allowed to critique!”


Pretty sure he decided after that game he will quit the club. Remember him sitting on the bench very upset.