Former West Coast Eagles star Ashley Sampi has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, one of Australia’s most common central nervous system diseases.
The gun small forward’s diagnosis was revealed by Ernie Dingo on Facebook on Monday night with a call to support the MS Foundation.
Dingo shared a heartfelt message from Sampi, 38, in which he described his emotions at finding out he had the disease last Tuesday.
“It would’ve been too hard to let you all know what I am going through and what my path for the future holds for myself and more importantly my lovely and beautiful wife Gerri and our kids,” Sampi said in a statement.
“The diagnosis was hard and overwhelming to take in but i have such great support around me (and) I know I will be OK.
Sampi said his family was still coming to terms with the diagnosis and asked for space to take his situation in.
Having grown up in Perth, Geraldton and Djarradjin on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, his talent was spotted playing for Trinity College then South Fremantle.
The 78-game veteran was drafted by West Coast in 2001 and made his debut the following year against Geelong.
He kicked 97 goals and in 2004 was awarded mark of the year for getting aerial up front against the Demons in round four.
Despite showing immense promise, Sampi’s career was cut short in 2007 due to personal problems.
He later revealed he had battled alcohol addiction and depression while coping with the loss of a cousin and a deteriorating relationship.
Sampi did manage to turn his life around and by 2013 was working in the mining industry and playing local footy for Armadale and then Toodyay.
He also played alongside Demons and Fremantle Dockers legend Jeff Farmer for the Wickham Wolves in 2011.
In his message posted to Dingo’s page, Sampi urged friends and fans to support the MS Foundation’s May 50k challenge, in which he has set himself a goal of walking, running or cycling 100km in the month.
Nerve damage due to MS disrupts communication between the brain and the body.
Symptoms can include vision loss, pain, fatigue and impaired coordination.
There is no known cure for the disease, which affects about 25,000 Australians, however treatment can manage symptoms.