Barry Hall has opened up the rapid deterioration of his relationship with his father after quitting boxing in his youth – and his struggles adapting to post-football life.
The 43-year-old was candid about his tumultuous relationship with his father, who refused to speak with him ‘for years’ after chasing his dream into the AFL.
Hall grew up in Broadford, north of Melbourne, where his dad Ray wanted his son to become a boxer, a sport Hall excelled at as a youngster.
But the allure of the AFL proved too strong for the 289-game veteran, leading to a heartbreaking conversation with his father – and the start of their rocky relationship.
Barry Hall (pictured with wife Lauren Brant) has opened up on his childhood and mental struggles after his AFL career
Hall clashes with Travis Gaspar of the West Coast Eagles during the Sydney Swans 2005 AFL Grand Final victory at the MCG
Hall clips Paul Gallen with a clean left hand during their Code War boxing bout in Melbourne in November 2019
‘I was boxing at one stage and was 15 about to turn 16. I really didn’t want to do it. I wanted to play footy because my mates were,’ Hall told The Herald Sun Sacked podcast.
‘I told my Dad I didn’t want to fight anymore. And that’s when the s**t hit the fan.
‘He didn’t speak to me for years after that, which you might think is an exaggeration. But sitting at the table, (there were) no words, no nothing.’
Without any backing from his parents, Hall was selected to play for the Murray Bushrangers in Wangaratta when he was 16 and fought his way into the AFL.
He debuted for St Kilda in 1996 and kicked 746 goals in his illustrious football career, culminating in captaining the Sydney Swans to a premiership in 2005.
Hall said he used to imagine lifting the premiership cup in his backyard as a kid using a block of wood as the trophy.
‘I was getting injections to get through games, so to hold the cup up was quite a struggle,’ he said.
‘I still get emotional about it now. It is something no one can ever take away and the Swans have it in their trophy cabinet (forever).’
Hall’s 16-season career was highly controversial, with his aggressive playing style rubbing off into several ‘brain fart’ incidents on the field, including his brutal blindsided punch to Brent Staker in 2008.
Hall threatens Brisbane Lions player Chris Johnson during a match in August 2003. Hall’s aggressive nature on the field was a hallmark of his career
‘I regretted it straight away. As soon as I watched it on the big screen, I thought “I’m in a bit of trouble”,’ Hall said.
The father-of-two believes his difficult childhood led him to develop anger issues, which generated some explosive reactions on the footy field.
‘It was one of those days when it was a ticking time bomb,’ he said.
Hall was suspended for seven games for hitting Staker and copped another game on the sideline for an attempted strike at Collingwood’s Shane Wakelin in his second game back.
Hall was sacked from the Swans in 2009 after his conduct on the field led to a falling out with Swans coach Paul Roos.
‘It got a bit heated,’ he said. ‘I was a premiership captain of the club and (Roos) was not answering my phone call.
‘I knew something had to happen from a club perspective. I was upset because it strained so many relationships.’
Hall signed with the Western Bulldogs for the final two seasons of his career, where he was treated for depression, before retiring in 2011.
Hall celebrates with Western Bulldogs team mate Ben Hudson in the final match of his career in September 2011
Hall suffered from an identity crisis after footy, where his weight ballooned to 125 kilograms on the back of poor dietary choices and drinking heavily.
‘All your structure is gone, your identity is gone. You fall into a state of depression, (thinking) “What am I now if I am not that?”‘ he said.
‘I was eating crap, I was drinking every night and when I drink, I don’t just have a couple, I strap it on.’
Hall’s mental health and identity struggles only got worse in his retirement, including being fired from Triple M in 2018.
Hall and his Triple M colleagues were speaking about former St Kilda star Leigh Montagna’s partner, who had recently undergone a medical procedure known as a ‘sweep’, which can induce labour.
‘The doctor was a good looking rooster and around 40 years of age. He did a sweep with his fingers and licked his fingers afterwards,’ Hall said on live radio.
He was immediately sacked by the radio station for his comments and swiftly apologised for what he said was a ‘silly thing to say’.
Hall (pictured with wife Lauren and children Miller and Houston) suffered an identity crisis after footy, where he drank heavily
Hall was sacked from Triple M after making insensitive comments about former St Kilda star Leigh Montagna’s partner (pictured left) before giving birth
‘It is not a reflection of who I am or what my views are. I am a proud father and dedicated partner and have nothing but respect for women,’ Hall said at the time.
The call dried up his income, leaving Hall, his partner Lauren Brant and young son Miller in a tough space.
‘All the endorsements I had, and every other revenue stream I had was gone,’ he said.
‘I had no money coming in. We weren’t broke. We had a roof over our heads and food on the tables, but it was challenging.’
Hall and the former Hi-5 singer went on to welcome their second son Houston in May 2019.
‘I kiss my kids 20 or 30 times a day,’ he said. ‘I have so much love for them. I just don’t know how you could not do that as a father.’
Hall with his sons Houston and Miller. He believes his childhood was the genesis of his anger issues in later life
Hall is using his time in the coronavirus pandemic to help Victorians struggling with poor mental health in a program called Blokes United.
The initiative was launched by Hall, former Fremantle player Richard Maloney and North Melbourne star Shaun Higgins and is aimed at lowering suicide rates among men.
The men offer help via online conference calls to their 13,000 members, which provide tips and tools with different guests each week.
‘It is almost a sense of therapy for me. I like helping people and it makes me feel good about myself as well,’ Hall said.
Hall believes his difficult childhood lead him to understand his anger issues later in life and how to take responsibility for his actions.
‘You have to understand it to be able to fix it,’ he said.
‘It took me getting sacked (by the Swans) to go to the Western Bulldogs to really do some work on myself.
‘I was finally prepared to listen and open my mind and accept responsibility.’
Hall and wife Lauren pose during the former AFL star’s training camp for his boxing bout with ex-NRL player Paul Gallen in 2019