Jason Akermanis’ private life has always been a rollercoaster every bit as turbulent as his famously bumpy footy career.
The 44-year-old has largely disappeared from the footy world in recent years — but the emerging career of daughter Charlotte, 16, is bringing him back to the sport he once dominated.
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On Saturday, Akermanis opened up on how he continues to respond to the life-changing news he was given at the age of 13 — that his father was not the man he believed it to be.
Outcast at the Brisbane Lions and sacked by the Western Bulldogs during one of the most high-profile and controversial careers footy has ever known, Akermanis admits his childhood trauma continued to impact his life and decisions throughout his chaotic career.
Akermanis first his spoke about his broken family situation in 2010 — the same year he was exiled from the AFL and never returned.
He has this week explained how he made the decision to embrace his second family, having previously refused to acknowledge the other blood-relations in his life.
The highs and lows can all be traced back to Akermanis’ upbringing in Mildura, country Victoria, with mum Shona Carswell and brother Rory.
Akermanis was led to believe his father, Canadian John Akermanis, had abandoned the family when he was just two years old.
He had been led astray.
He has previously spoken about how he was told at the age of 13 — after the family had moved to Brisbane — that his real father was a mechanic based in Mildura — a man, his mum had an affair with.
The incredible revelation flattened him.
Jason Akermanis and wife Megan Legge. AAP.Source:AAP
Jason Akermanis supporting local footballer Kiara Wright.Source:News Regional Media
He admits to having suffered depression at the age of 14 and contemplated suicide, despite his undeniable talent on the football field.
Akermanis at the time made a conscious decision to get on with his life — ignoring the news that his real father was a man called Denis Dezdjek.
While able to carry on living his life, the revelation stuck into him like a thorn.
“Mum told me she was working in the office at a car dealership in Mildura where Denis was a mechanic and they had an affair that resulted in me and Rory,” Akermanis told The Daily Mail on Saturday.
“John Akermanis had been away working for a while and when he got back Mum told him that she was pregnant with Rory. He did some sums and said, “wait a minute, that can’t be right. I wasn’t here.
Jason Akermanis has taken to real estate like he did football.Source:News Corp Australia
“I was pretty stunned at first. I’d grown up thinking I was Canadian. I had pictures of the Canadian wilderness of my bedroom wall. I’d dreamt of going there one day.”
It was already more than one teenager should have to carry, but the family was rocked again in Akermanis’ final year of high school with his mum diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Less than two years later, she died at the age of 41.
According to the report, Akermanis became his younger brother’s legal guardian at the age of 19.
“It was a bad time,” Akermanis said.
His private life carried over to his life on the footy field.
He famously fell out with legendary coach Leigh Matthews as a result of publicly criticising the Hall of Fame inductee in his own newspaper column.
While no longer one of the best players in the game as he had been during Brisbane’s famous run of three-straight premiership wins from 2001-03, Akermanis was still one of the Lions’ biggest stars when he was cut adrift by the club at the end of the 2006 season — reportedly no longer wanted by his coaches or teammates.
The same scenario played out just four years later when Akermanis was sacked by the Western Bulldogs six weeks out from the start of the 2010 finals series.
AFL Hall of Fame. Megan and Jason Akermanis with children Sienna and Charlotte. Picture: Julie KiriacoudisSource:News Corp Australia
His spiralling career with the Lions was the same time in his life that Akermanis now says he made a conscious decision to track down his father — and his half-brother Nigel, and half-sisters Elissa and Shelley.
Akermanis reconnected with the family that had been kept secret from him and enjoyed 15 years with father Denis before he died last year at the age of 70.
Through all the see of turmoil, Akermanis has arrived at a peaceful place with wife Megan and daughters Charlotte, Sienna 13, and Zoe, 3, inside their Brisbane home.
Akermanis earlier this week spoke glowingly about Charlotte after she was picked up by the Lions’ Academy as a future AFLW player — capable of being the club’s first ever father-daughter draft selection at the AFLW draft in years to come.
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