Parents say 16yo Joey O’Keeffe ‘bullied to death’

Joey O'Keeffe
Image: YouTube

The parents of 16-year-old Joseph ‘Joey’ O’Keeffe who died October 31 last year, say their son was “bullied to death”.

Joey’s father Tommy Gleeson told the Sunday Telegraph the Hay teenager “was good at anything he put his hand to, including motorbikes, welding, cricket and later AFL.”

But his parents said despite excelling on the field, Joey suffered bullying while playing the sport he loved.

Joey is gay

Joey O’Keeffe died a few days after winning his AFL club’s best and fairest award. But, two years before, someone scrawled ‘Joey is gay’ on the front and back of his grand final winning jersey at the club presentation night.

Joey’s parents and a cousin said he endured bullying on social media, at school and in the AFL community.

His mum said nothing ever came of complaints she made to the club about the bullying. Jill O’Keeffe said her son did not want to pursue the complaint and another player left the club because of similar bullying.

Club president George Auldist said that he and other committee members were unaware of any bullying.

“[I] can honestly state that this type of behaviour is not tolerated in our club and if it had been seen it would have been stopped immediately.”

More mental health resources in the bush

Jill O’Keeffe said despite crisis line pamphlets found in her son’s room, poor mobile coverage in rural areas could stop country kids from accessing services.

“The helplines are OK if you can get onto them. In rural areas, a lot of kids don’t have that service to make that phone call. There just needs to be more resources.”

If you need support

If you need support, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at

Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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  1. Peter Turner
    14 February 2022

    So sad! Yet another beautiful life extinguished before he could be who he really was. The attitude of the local AFL club is typical. He would have been lumped into the too hard basket. Despite several complaints nothing was done.

    I hope those bullies within the club are forced to take a long hard look at their actions and the ultimate outcome. They should hang their collective heads in shame!!

  2. James Katon
    17 March 2022

    I was bullied at school from a very young age, I know to well the fear and hate other’s can dish out, being bi sexual or say gay was hard enough to deal with, but as soon as others found out my life at school was he’ll.
    I asked for help from teachers to no avail, on my way home from school I’d be bashed threatened and just hated on.
    It has taken its toll over the years.
    Until I was able to stand up for myself it was non stop.

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