Sporting legend Andrew Ettingshausen's affair with a team-mate's wife sent shockwaves through the Australian football community. Here, Andrew reveals the reasons behind his infidelity.
"Why would anyone throw away a life that has everything? A loving wife, a beautiful family, financial security and all the material things that make life work? It simply doesn't make sense. I suppose my brain was looking for an escape from the pain and so, in my most vulnerable state, I stooped to the lowest depths."
So reads an email from Andrew Ettingshausen, former professional rugby league player and golden boy of the code. When the email arrives, it's been three weeks since news of an affair Andrew had with a former team-mate's wife has made headlines around the country.
Fast-forward a week and I am in the living room of a home in the southern Sydney suburb of Cronulla. Sitting on the couch opposite me is Andrew and his wife, Monique.
During the course of the three-hour conversation that ensues, Andrew is regularly moved to tears. On each occasion, he looks to his wife imploringly, but she can only stare straight ahead. She looks tired, deflated.
"I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to win Monique's love back," he says, more to her than me.
"Because I haven't given it back yet," Monique says, flatly. "Even though I am here doing this story, I've still got a long way to go before I can say I love him."
It's only now, after 15 months spent seeing a psychologist and more recently a psychiatrist that Andrew has been diagnosed as having suffered from severe depression and a clinical condition known as "dissociation".
"It's a coping mechanism for the brain when extreme stress becomes physically too much to bear," as his treating psychiatrist told The Weekly, with Andrew's permission.
"I see many people in this situation and mostly they will either buckle or work to downgrade their stress levels — but Andrew did neither of those things. He just became more and more detached from the world in which he was living. Over a period of four years, he fell into a slow-boil style of depression."
"You get into a position where you feel you are looking through a very small window and there's fog all around," as Andrew remembers it.
"It's like you are heading down a tunnel and you can only deal with whatever single problem you are fixated on at that moment. Everything and everyone else ceases to exist. There are no 'red flags' stopping you from doing things that you would normally never do. You are detached from reality."
Andrew says he became so desperate at one point he even contemplated suicide. "I remember thinking if I was dead, all of these problems would go away," he says. "And I thought it would be very easy for me to go fishing one day and just not come home."
It was around this time that Andrew started having an affair. Except to confirm it happened in 2010 and that it lasted a year, during which time he had "only sporadic contact" with Paul Mellor's wife, Andrew will only say it was "the biggest mistake of my life", adding there is nothing to be gained by discussing the details.
What he will discuss, is his remorse. In an email, days after our encounter, Andrew says a day hasn't passed in the past 15 months that he hasn't been reduced to tears.
"I have no words to explain the deep regret I feel," he writes. "I have thrown away my whole life, all that I treasured, all that I was blessed to have. I discarded the most important person in the world to me. My wife, Monique, was my best friend, my soul mate and the love of my life.
"Words can't describe the pain I feel when I look into Monique's eyes. Her eyes reflect the disgust, the hurt and the gut-wrenching betrayal that I have brought to her life. I feel far beneath any level of humankind. Every day, I cry tears of shame and my mind aches with an intensity that no medicine can cure."
Read more of this story in the June issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.
Video: Rugby league star Andrew Ettingshausen admits everything about his affair with his teammate's wife