Almanac Cricket: Tony Dell Standing Tall


This article first appeared in Queensland RSL News, Edition 3 2015 and is reprinted here by kind permission. 


By Kylie Hatfield.



“Australian test cricketer Tony Dell put his burgeoning career on hold to serve in Vietnam and remains the only veteran of any conflict since 1945 to have represented his country in our national sporting pastime. Forty years later, Tony was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is now dedicated to raising awareness and generating discussion around this debilitating disorder.


An Englishman by birth, Tony Dell came to Australia in 1959 and less than a decade later was serving his new country on the front line in one of the most controversial conflicts of our time. When he was called up in the second intake of the National Service as a 20-year-old in 1965, Tony was playing – by his own admission – pretty good club cricket and had desires to play for his State of Queensland.

An unsuccessful attempt to get out of the National Service was followed by six months of recruit and corp training at Singleton, before Tony relocated back to Enoggera so he could play cricket on the weekends.

“I wanted to come back to Brisbane, to the 2nd Battalion, but they were next to go to Vietnam. At that stage it didn’t really worry me; I just thought, ‘Well I’m doing all this training, let’s put it to use’,” Tony said.

Despite an injury during training providing an opportunity to avoid facing deployment, and the war being unpopular in the opinions of many Australians, Tony elected to go, spending almost a year with 2RAR in Vietnam. It was the “unsavoury situations” he witnessed and was involved in during this time that Tony believes ultimately caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the long run.

PTSD is one of the single biggest health problems in Australia, affecting up to 1.5 million Australians and impacting the lives of around half the population. A health condition that is one of the least understood by the general public and the medical fraternity alike, many of those affected are repeatedly subjected to tragic events, which is often the case among members of Australia’s Defence Forces and first responders like police and paramedics.

Upon returning home, a final pay cheque and handshake marked the end of Tony’s service, but it was only the beginning of the PTSD that would haunt his work and personal life for the next four decades.

Unwilling to mention where he had been and suppressing the memories of his experiences, Tony returned to work within days of discharge, excelling at his job in a high-profile advertising agency in Brisbane.

Also returning to playing good quality cricket, Tony debuted for Queensland shortly after his return and halfway through the season was selected by Donald Bradman to play for Australia, playing in two international Tests in his short career under the captaincy of Ian Chappell.

But after four seasons of representing his State, Tony decided he didn’t want to play anymore, admitting he felt guilty that others were left to do his job while he was off playing cricket. Offering no other explanation, Tony linked these feelings to his military training, where it was instilled in him that a unit is only as strong as its weakest member. Putting his emotions aside, Tony played one more season before quitting cricket for good.

“My rationale there was, ‘I’m not there, there’s other people doing my job, that’s not fair’. Back then, your job and job security were much more important than sport – there was no money in sport,” reflected Tony.

Tony moved on from cricket, becoming a director within the agency he worked for and starting a family with his wife, all the while not realising that PTSD was taking hold. “I was damn good at my job and I became a workaholic. That was basically my subconscious telling me that I’ve got to keep busy so the bad memories don’t come to the fore.”

But unbeknown to Tony at the time, while the memories were being suppressed, symptoms of PTSD were starting to show.

“I had three kids, and when I look back now, after talking to psychiatrists, I could see that I was remote, I was anti-social, I didn’t really engage in conversation with my wife. Then I just got fired. I had no real idea why.”

After establishing his own successful agency and then losing everything in the recession in the early 1990s, Tony spent the decade meandering, moving between rental houses, trying to focus his financial efforts on ensuring his children received a good education.

“I think then I just lost the will to get up and go again. I guess the ’90s was my darkest period, again without me really knowing at the time. I think my wife blamed me for the misfortunes – she didn’t understand PTSD, didn’t understand the emotional things that go with it, and my marriage eventually busted up.”

Living on the Sunshine Coast in 2007, Tony received a call that would start to change his life’s direction.

“I got a call from a couple of ex-colonels who were with Defence Cricket, and they said ‘You’re the only Vietnam veteran that’s played Test cricket. We have this International Defence Cricket Challenge every couple of years and we’d like you to be our guest’,” recalls Tony.

It was at that event in 2007 that Tony first met Angus Houston, who he now considers a respected friend, and was encouraged by one of the colonels to visit the Vietnam veterans’ drop-in centre in Maroochydore to arrange for replacement service medals. Tony’s visit to the centre was a turning point in his life.

“We just sat down, had a cup of coffee and about half-an-hour later they said, ‘You’ve got PTSD’.”

After consultations with a psychiatrist, which confirmed he indeed suffered PTSD, Tony was able to apply for veteran welfare assistance and finally start to find some answers to the turning points in his life. He was also ready to open up and talk about the issues no-one else was talking about, and used his profile and the platforms this presented to this advantage.

“The guys in Canberra rang me up again and said, ‘We’d like you to be the guest speaker at the awards night for the International Defence Cricket Challenge. You could talk about your army service and your cricket career and how they intertwined’,” recalled Tony.

In his speech to the 400 servicemen and women in attendance, Tony spoke about a topic that in 2009 was still very much taboo, yet it resonated with the international crowd and started the cogs turning on the next phase of his life.

“I thought, ‘I’ve made a bit of an impact here’, so while I was recovering from a knee replacement back on the Sunshine Coast, I just weighed everything up. I had all these defence contacts, I had all these cricket contacts, I had all the advertising experience, I’d been told I can’t work anymore (because of the pension) – what do I do?”

That’s when Tony directed his efforts into establishing and operating the PTS Foundation and the awareness program Stand Tall for PTS. Initially started as a mission to help Vietnam veterans, the size and scope of the problem has forced the significant growth of the organisation, which has been met with praise and support around the country.

“I had been told that there were still thousands of Vietnam veterans who had no idea what had gone wrong in their lives, so I just banded together a few people, we formed a company and started creating awareness for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

With a focus on awareness and facilitation, the PTS Foundation utilises the strengths of other organisations, such as the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, which is conducting world-first research into PTSD, and Beyond Blue, which provides the assistance of trained mental-health professionals for people to talk to.

“We are about collaboration and providing resources and avenues to further explore PTS; we aren’t about offering treatment and we will refer people where appropriate,” explained Tony.

“We dropped the ‘D’ for Disorder from the commonly known descriptor to help to remove the stigmatisation that often comes with PTSD. In the sense of PTS, well, there wouldn’t be a person who hasn’t themselves experienced some form of stress.”

Since the formation of the PTS Foundation, Tony has spent every day dedicated to the cause and has worked with others passionate about the issue to present the 2015 PTSD Forum, to be held in Brisbane in September.

The first of its kind in Australia, the national forum will bring together the best in the fields of research and treatment, and include all arms of the Defence Force and first responders to actively discuss diagnosis, treatment and research methods.

“The ultimate aim is to get some national consensus on how to approach the problems we face and to start to form a peak body. In conjunction with the forum, we will produce the first credible, comprehensive, national report on PTS,” said Tony.

“We see an Australia where PTS has the full support of governments for research and treatment, and our vision is that, one day, every Australian will have a clear understanding of and respect for those who are affected
by PTS.”

RSL (Queensland Branch) is proud to be a sponsor of the 2015 PTSD Forum, being held in Brisbane on September 11-12, 2015. For more information, visit )



Download the full Queensland RSL News Edition 3 PDF, including the original version of the ‘Standing Tall’ article HERE




  1. E.regnans says

    That’s a grand story, Kylie.
    And mighty efforts, Tony.
    No doubt this will make a material difference in the lives of many.
    We know now that dark experiences, their carriage, their impact, can play out over generations.
    Good luck to all involved with the PTS Forum in Brisbane.

  2. Sorry to be a wet blanket but I only recall Tony playing 2 tests, v Englnad @ the SCG in 70-71, then against the Kiwis @ the G in 73-74. I’m a pedant. [Thanks Glen, we just changed it to two Tests]

    As someone who has worked in the mental health field it is great to see a person of Tonys profile undertaking this work. Good on ya !


  3. Never really understood why he was in an out of the team at the time, he was unplayable at the Gabba when “on”. Maybe the above explains that. These days he might get the help he needed, and his life would have been so different.

    And we could have had Thomson, Lillee, Dell. wow.

    (I work with his nephew, and he often lets me extol my memories. But he is most proud of Tony’s work in this area.)

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great article and vital re society that it becomes far more aware and understanding of,PTSD.i would hope the cricket fraternity and every one in general supports the cause,thank you,Kylie and good luck,Tony

  5. Raj Singh says

    Fascinating article good luck with the Foundation

  6. Thanks Kylie for writing this piece. As a Vietnam Vet (Nasho) I’ve seen PTS reap havoc through the Vet community but articles such as this make all and sundry aware of what it’s all about.Thankfully Veterans Affairs has helped thousands and publicity has raised awareness of the problem.
    I am sure the forum will be a success-good luck Tony and thanks for what you are doing. It’s been a long time coming

  7. The memory is fuzzy but I believe my first visit to the MCG was Vic v QLD 73/74 and saw Tony Dell and QLD beat a team compromising Stackpole, Sheahan and Redpath. Good Luck Tony Dell and the Foundation.

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