Shane and Travis Tuck always had each other’s back, but there were some problems the younger brother couldn’t fix. This is their story of loss and hope.
Shane and Travis Tuck always had each other’s back, but there were some problems the younger brother couldn’t fix. This is their story of loss and hope.

'My brother, my mate, our pain'

Travis Tuck had never contemplated such a depth of pain.

His brother Shane's death at age 38 on Monday, July 20, and the torment, complexity and heartache in the days that followed, left him in a sort of trance.

"It's still early stages. I'm still trying to understand how I feel," he says.

"As a family we fought for Shane, and he fought for himself as much he could."

The death of Shane, a one-time Richmond stalwart, came at the end of a two-year conflict with himself, or inside himself.

Travis, six years younger than his brother, and who has himself experienced mental health issues, has opened up because he wants young blokes to learn from his brother's story.

Not to share his pain, but to help others to try and avoid his pain.

"I was aware in the last two years Shane had been struggling quite a lot and it continued to deteriorate," he said.

"I could never fully understand the pain Shane was going through, but the week after Shane's passing, I never knew what pain truly was until then.

"Just the pain and sheer heartache myself and my family had to go through.

"I started to get an understanding of the pain my brother was suffering continuously every day and I couldn't understand the pain before that."


Shane and Travis Tuck after a family fishing trip.
Shane and Travis Tuck after a family fishing trip.


On that horrible winter morning Travis received a phone call from his mother, Fay, telling him her son and his brother had been found dead.

When the call came, it was not totally unexpected.

"We knew for some time there was a risk of something happening along those lines," Travis said.

"But nothing actually prepares you for that phone call I did get from Mum that morning.

"And as I said, 'I never knew the meaning of true heartache'.

"At the same time, we got to fight with my brother with his mental health and a lot of families don't get that opportunity because sometimes young people take their life without speaking out.

"That's an important message, we've got to get young people to speak out more and support them as much as we can."

Shane and Travis were the sons - they have a sister Renee - of Hawthorn champion Michael Tuck.


Michael Tuck at the funeral of his son Shane. Picture: Channel 9
Michael Tuck at the funeral of his son Shane. Picture: Channel 9


Born into a family of greatness - Fay was an Ablett - the brothers set out forging their own paths in football. But it was tough being the son of a legend.

"In the early days I did find it a bit of a burden," Shane once said.

Late in life he said: "When I had my time away from Hawthorn I became proud to be his son rather than let it become a burden."

Then he became a Tigers favourite.

"He created his own legacy because he achieved what he achieved himself," Michael said days after Shane's passing.

"He was a Richmond man. I was very proud of him."

Shane would play 173 games. Travis would play 20 games for Hawthorn before leaving the sport with three drugs strikes.

They played one game together, for South Australian Amateur Football League side Goodwood Saints.

"That was special because it was the only game of footy we played together," Travis said.


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Brothers Travis and Shane Tuck after playing their only game together, for Goodwood Saints in 2017.
Brothers Travis and Shane Tuck after playing their only game together, for Goodwood Saints in 2017.


That's not counting the mismatched clashes in the family's Berwick home growing up.

There was a six-year gap between Shane and Travis, so Shane was more a hero to Travis than an older brother.

In adulthood, they were never the brothers to say they loved each other.

So in many ways this is not a tale about a brother's love, more about being a brother's mate.

"We always knew we had each other's back," Travis said.

"Being the younger brother, I looked up to him a hell of a lot."

He tried to model his game on Shane's hands-dirty approach to football.

"Coming out of Dandenong Stingrays under-18s, I was a bit more of an outside-type player and seeing my brother get around on the footy field, and me wanting to be like him, my game changed a bit," Travis said.

"I wanted to become that inside tough sort of hardball-get player that he became.

"I based my game on the way he went about things and it's all part of looking up to the big brother.

"The thing I can take away from him was he was always looking to give young blokes a leg up.

"He took quite a few young blokes at Richmond when they were new, he took them to his place and gave them a place to stay and he was always willing to make young blokes feel good about themselves and give them the time of day.

"That was the kind of bloke he was."


Travis Tuck wanted to play like his brother Shane.
Travis Tuck wanted to play like his brother Shane.


When he first became aware of Shane's issues, about two years ago, Travis tried to "fix" his brother

"I tried to fix him like you would any family member, trying to look after your brother, and I think there was that, I maybe had to leave that to the professionals," he said.

"Because at times when it didn't work, I became frustrated and angry that he wasn't getting better, and that was a bit detrimental.

"So, instead of trying to fix my brother, it was like, just be a brother to him and give him someone to talk to and to support him and just share a laugh.

"They're the times I'm going to remember going forward."

Travis had his own problems at one stage in his life, and his choices seemingly led him on a path of destruction.

He's better now. Healthy. Still grieving, but strong in message.

"For me, I had a couple of things going on around that period when I got three strikes," he said.

"I had a good mate pass away and that probably had a bigger impact on me at the time more than I thought.

"Instead of positive outlets in my life, I think the way I knew how to handle my issues at that time was through drug use.

"Ultimately, it led me to what happened, but I take full responsibility for my actions.

"The message I'm trying to put across is that I was in a bit of a bad place and instead of positive outlets like golfing, camping, spending time with mates fishing, there are also those negative outlets in life like drugs, alcohol, gambling and that's what brings a lot of blokes undone.

"When we've got mates dealing with those issues and you know about it, then is the time to move in and show some support to your mates and get them serious professional help.

"My brother's situation was different.

"His was purely mental health, it wasn't drug use, alcohol or anything like that. He was really battling mentally and we couldn't quite win the battle in the end."

Near the end of Shane's life, they would talk often and go for walks with the dogs. It's simplistic in a way, but still a supportive mechanism

"It doesn't always have to be the important conversations and asking the serious questions because sometimes that can turn people off, too," Travis said.

"Towards the later weeks, I started talking to my brother like he was my brother.

"We shared good times together. We talked about world stuff, what I'm doing, work, just life discussions."




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Of course, the family grieves. Together and separately.

"I guess because my brother has had mental struggles for the past 18 months to two years, I have sort of almost grieved for my brother before the actual incident," Travis said.

"The frustration of a brother suffering and doing anything to help, that grief process, I almost got a bit of that in before the incident.

"That first week was real heartache and nothing prepares you for that shock, but that sped up my grieving process.

"We were so lucky to get so much support from so many, the amount of flowers and cards that we received.

"Not a lot of other families are lucky enough to get that, so we were thankful for the football community, local friends, my footy club Berwick has been great, too."


Former Hawthorn player Travis Tuck.
Former Hawthorn player Travis Tuck.


Mum and Dad?

"We support each other. I'm very proud of my parents. They are a strong couple," he said.

"We've always had a very strong family sense and we're sticking together. We have great support and we take each day as it comes."

The COVID-19 shutdown in Victoria also prompted Travis to speak out.

He wanted to shed light on the struggle for young blokes - and women - who might need support and professional help.

"If we can call up a mate and get them some help, and maybe prevent him or prevent his family from going through what my family has gone through, all this is worthwhile," he said.

"I was very proud of my brother, very proud of his achievements as a person, nothing came easy for him.

"Everything he got he really fought hard for and I'm going to take some of the traits he had, treat people right, give young blokes a leg up and use my life to help other people.

"That's the legacy of my brother."


For crisis support, please contact Lifeline at or 13 11 14, and Beyond Blue at and 1300 22 4636

Originally published as Travis Tuck: My brother, my mate, our pain

Hawthorn legend Michael Tuck in 1990 with his children Shane, Renee and Travis.
Hawthorn legend Michael Tuck in 1990 with his children Shane, Renee and Travis.