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Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin blasts claims The NRL Footy Show mocked Mario Fenech during his dementia battle

Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin lashes out over claims The Footy Show mocked Mario Fenech during dementia battle and insists NRL legend never complained about being the butt of jokes

  • Paul Vautin has blasted claims The Footy Show mocked star after his diagnosis
  • Footy Show host says Fenech ‘loved’ being on the show and never complained
  • Vautin says everyone on the show took the mickey out of each other

NRL Footy Show icon Paul Vautin has strongly refuted claims the long-running TV program mocked Mario Fenech after learning about his devastating dementia diagnosis and insisted the Souths great ‘loved’ having the mickey taken out of him.

Fenech, now 60, suffers from memory loss and has the brain of an 80-year-old after being diagnosed with early onset dementia seven years ago.

After calling full-time on his 274-game career in the 1990s, Fenech became a regular figure on the NRL Footy Show, where he was often mocked and became the butt of jokes and pranks from the panel.

Footy Show icon Paul Vautin has blasted claims that the long-running program mocked Mario Fenech after learning of his early onset dementia diagnosis

Footy Show icon Paul Vautin has blasted claims that the long-running program mocked Mario Fenech after learning of his early onset dementia diagnosis

Mario Fenech’s devastating diagnosis was highlighted on Channel 7’s Spotlight on Sunday night as he battles effects of early onset dementia following a 274-game first-grade career

Mario Fenech’s devastating diagnosis was highlighted on Channel 7’s Spotlight on Sunday night as he battles effects of early onset dementia following a 274-game first-grade career

Fenech opened up about his poor health on Seven’s Spotlight program on Sunday, which Vautin has praised – but he was angered by an article the following day. 

The headline read: ‘Footy Show mocked cult hero Mario Fenech when it knew he was sick’, which he says is completely false.

‘I’ve never seen a more disgusting news headline,’ Vautin told Wide World of Sports Radio. ‘It’s incredibly disappointing to see that.

 I did an interview with him [Fenech] at the SFS [Sydney Football Stadium] in a coffee shop in 2016 and he announced that he had early onset dementia and we were all shocked by that.

Vautin claimed that part of the show's appeal was the way all the stars took the mickey out of one another and he never heard Fenech complain about being treated poorly

Vautin claimed that part of the show’s appeal was the way all the stars took the mickey out of one another and he never heard Fenech complain about being treated poorly

‘I know for a fact that Mario was seldom, if at all, used on the show after that, so there’s no possible way that we mocked him [while knowing of his condition], none at all.

‘I just want to reassure people who were fans of the show back in the day. That show has left a great legacy.

‘I just want to tell them that we never, ever mistreated Mario Fenech once we knew that he had dementia.’

Fenech’s wife Rebecca claimed her husband would often come home ‘p***ed off’ about how he was treated on the program and suggested The Footy Show continued to treat him badly despite knowing his health was in decline. 

Rebecca Fenech claimed that her husband would often come home 'p***ed off' about how he was treated on the program

Rebecca Fenech claimed that her husband would often come home ‘p***ed off’ about how he was treated on the program

Vautin maintains he never heard Fenech complain once and claimed that part of the show’s appeal was the way all the stars took the mickey out of one another. 

‘Mario was very good on the show, and he loved being on the show,’ Vautin said.

‘He knew that we were taking the mickey out of him a hell of a lot, but he played the part so well.

‘Once the show was finished it was back to, “Hey, mate, how you going?”, and he’d always finish off with, ‘Love ya, Fat, see you next week”.’

Vautin says Fenech loved being on the show, but he also understands Mrs Fenech's frustration

Vautin says Fenech loved being on the show, but he also understands Mrs Fenech’s frustration

Vautin says he only has sympathy for Rebecca Fenech and understands where her criticism was coming from. 

‘Rebecca’s been a great wife to him and a great person as well. I understand her frustration thinking that we did take the mickey out of him a bit too much, but he played a role and he loved it and he got paid.’ 

Fenech’s condition has deteriorated to the point where he now has nearly no memory left at all, and his neurologist says it will not be long before the former footy star needs full-time care.

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