It is now understood that rugby great Vickerman took his own life in his Sydney family home, and is survived by his wife Sarah and two young sons.
Tragically, Vickerman was due to be the keynote speaker at a forum about the troubles elite athletes face once they retire on the day of his death.
While news of the second-rower’s passing has understandably rocked the rugby community, former Waratahs coaching co-ordinator Greg Mumm says this heartbreaking loss widens the gaze on a troubling issue.
“Dan was always someone who thought very deeply about things like this,” Mumm said.
“He was very articulate about the need for athletes to have a focus (in their retirement) and a plan. And he always had a track record of giving back to the game.”
“Of course, I was shocked by Dan’s death. But it has opened the door to a broader issue.”
Former Wallabies player and Brumbies captain, Owen Finegan, told the ABC Vickerman had confided in his friends about the difficulties of post-rugby life.
“Dan had expressed a number of times how difficult his transition was and it is difficult for a lot of professional sports people, especially when you’ve had 10 or more years at the top of the game,” Finegan said.
Nathan Sharpe, who played alongside Vickerman in the second row, has posted a heartbreaking post on Instagram to his friend.
The South African moved to Australia in 2000, quickly making an impression to be selection for the Australian under 21’s that year. He went on to play 63 tests for his adopted nation between 2002 and 2011, including the World Cup in which Australia made the semi-final.
“Dan was an uncompromising competitor who forged a wonderful international rugby career despite a number of injury setbacks along the way,” said Australian Rugby Union chief executive, Bill Pulver.
“He was an enforcer on the field and a much-loved character off the field. He cared deeply about the game and the players, helping players transition into life after rugby in his role with RUPA following his retirement.”
After being forced to prematurely retire in 2012 due to problems with stress fractures in his right leg, Vickerman worked in the real estate and infrastructure investment industry.
At 28, and the peak of his career, Vickerman left both the Waratahs and Australia to study a degree in Land Economics at Cambridge University.
His internationality has ensured his untimely death has shocked and saddened people all over the world.
Our thoughts are with Dan Vickerman’s family and friends.
If you or anyone you know is suffering, contact Lifeline lifeline.org.au on 1311 14 or visit Headspace at headspace.org.au. Visit Beyond Blue at beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636. You can also contact the Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800.