World Cup-winning Wallaby Tony Daly Wednesday revealed he was abused as a child, after avoiding jail for a string of petty crimes sparked by a downward spiral into drink and drugs.
Prop Daly played 41 Tests for Australia between 1989 and 1995 and with Phil Kearns and Ewen McKenzie formed what was widely regarded as one the best front rows in Wallabies history.
But he was carrying a burden, revealed after appearing in court on theft and driving offences, which he blamed on sexual abuse by one of the Catholic brothers at a prestigious Sydney school, St Joseph's College, that began when he was 11.
"The boarding school was the launch pad of what has gone wrong in my life," the 51-year-old told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
"I've stuffed up two marriages, I was drinking a lot, abusing substances, I've been all over the shop for years."
Daly, who was sentenced on Tuesday to 500 hours of community service and banned from driving until 2024, said the abuse, which went on for two years, "robbed me of my innocence and normal life".
"I was 11 at the time and didn't know any better, for years I thought it was normal behaviour," he said, describing the man who abused him as a "bully" and a "pervert".
Daly, who scored one of his four Test tries in the 1991 Rugby World Cup final win over England, said the pent-up rage he felt motivated his dream to become a rugby star.
But when he finished playing, he felt suicidal and filled the void by bingeing on drink and drugs.
"I crashed and burned around 2003," he said. "There was a lot of anger and I couldn't face my demons for years so I'd have a thousand beers and take drugs to forget it."
According to the Telegraph, Daly wept as he was sentenced, with the magistrate describing him as "a very sad man".
His revelations came in the midst of a long-running national inquiry into institutional responses to child sex abuse.
The royal commission, ordered by the government in 2012 after a decade of growing pressure to investigate allegations of widespread paedophilia.
It has spoken to thousands of survivors, including Daly, and heard claims of abuse involving churches, orphanages, community and youth groups and schools.