Rugby league great Wally Lewis reveals he is ‘fearful’ as he battles devastating diagnosis

Feb 27, 2024
"I'm fearful for what my future will look like, so I try not to think too much about it." Source: Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS.

In the prime of his rugby league career, the legendary Wally Lewis exuded unwavering confidence in his on-field prowess.

Yet, in the aftermath of a chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) diagnosis, Lewis now acknowledges a sense of fear as he grapples with uncertainty about his future.

“I’m fearful for what my future will look like, so I try not to think too much about it,” he said.

“We all thought we were 10-feet tall, bulletproof.

“But for most of us, the reality was that it was causing us the extensive long-term damage (and it was) something that we weren’t dealing with.”

According to Dementia Australia, CTE is a type of dementia where many repeated head injuries can affect someone’s brain function over time, enough to interfere with the person’s normal or working life.

Addressing a Dementia Australia panel from Parliament House on Tuesday, February 27, the 64-year-old candidly revealed his challenges, confessing that initially, he grappled with occasional bouts of forgetfulness.

However, these instances soon became a regular recurrence.

“I was a little bit out of sorts, and then the confusion came, and then the denial,” he said.

“My best friends, my workmates … it soon became very obvious by the looks upon their faces.”

Lewis has previously opened up about his failing memory during a recent interview with 60 Minutes in which he recounted one of his first meetings with his doctor.

“She asked to repeat simple things – I think she gave me five things, and it might have been something like bus, dog, truck, camera, chair. And she said, ‘Remember those.’ And went over them two or three times,” Lewis said.

“A minute later she said, ‘What are the things I asked you to remember?’ And I got two of them. And then sometime later, after that, she said, ‘Do you remember what they were?’ And I think I said ‘bus’.

“Pride’s a wonderful thing, but there wasn’t much of it around then.”

Nowadays, Lewis relies on a diary to aid his memory, with his partner Lynda Adams providing ongoing support by checking in on him at various points throughout the day.

Lewis represented Queensland in thirty-one State of Origin games from 1980 to 1991, and was captain for thirty of them.

He also represented Australia in thirty-three international matches from 1981 to 1991 and was the national team captain from 1984 to 1989.

-with AAP.

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