Gary Buckenara: A Tackle Your Feelings story

words by Tackle Your Feelings, Tuesday 30 March 2021

Former Hawthorn player Gary Buckenara reached the pinnacle of his VFL career with four premierships, three All Australian blazers and countless accolades next to his name but below the surface he was facing an ongoing mental health battle.

“You actually become a bit of an actor… you’re living a double life really, trying to show people you’re happy and successful whereas underneath you feel like you’re a total failure,” Buckenara told Tackle Your Feelings.

Gary Buckenara: A Tackle Your Feelings story from Tackle Your Feelings Australia on Vimeo.

While Buckenara’s playing career was a monumental success, his move into coaching did not follow the same path.

He was appointed the senior coach of the Sydney Swans in 1992 after knee injuries resulted in a premature finish to his football career but was sacked in the middle of the 1993 season after 18 straight losses.

Buckenara returned to his original club Subiaco as a coach but never reached the same lofty heights as his playing career.

“I’d had all this great success and gone to the top of the mountain from a playing point of view and then the coaching thing fell over and financially things fell over and I just felt myself as a failure,” he said.

After a significant battle with his mental health, Buckenara was in a dark place but ultimately his love for his family gave him the impetus to thrive once again.   

Following that experience, Buckenara sought guidance and support from his family and general practitioner who connected him with a psychologist.

Looking back, he’s grateful he had the courage to speak up when he did.

“There’s so many good things in my life in terms of my children and their children… I wouldn’t have had those things if I didn’t speak up and I didn’t make the decision not to let it beat me.”

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