Inside Wally Lewis’ marriage before heartbreaking split
Wally Lewis once referred to his estranged wife as a "a tower of strength" he "leant heavily on" during his sporting career and health battles, admitting he didn't know what he'd do without her.
In his runaway bestseller, My Life: Wally Lewis, released just two months ago, the rugby league great wrote effusively about being "blessed" by his 36-year-marriage to Jackie Lewis, who he fell in love with at first sight at a birthday party in 1983, dedicating the book to her and his children.
But this week he made the shock announcement that their marriage ended last year and that he had moved on to a new relationship with Townsville woman Lynda Adams in a separation that devastated the celebrated Queensland family.
The Courier-Mail understands Lewis, 61, who shares three adult children - radio announcer Mitchell, actor Lincoln and rugby league player Jamie-Lee - and three grandsons with Jacqui, was visibly downcast as he returned to his regular presenting duties at Nine News on Tuesday night after news of his marriage split reverberated around the state.
As My Life, a collaboration with Steve Hadden, hit shelves in December, Lewis had also just sold their home in Birkdale, where the family had lived since 1994.
In the final chapter of his book Lewis wrote: "When you've raised children like ours, you know you've done something right. That's what you want. It's not about your success or what you've done. It's about how you treat people, especially the ones you love. Jackie and I are celebrating 36 years of marriage. I am blessed."
In his statement this week, Lewis acknowledged the "pain and upset" the separation had caused his family and hoped "over time we can rebuild our ties".
Lewis met Jackie Green at his friend Mark Wilson's birthday party in June, 1983, and they later went to dinner at up-market French restaurant Scaramouche, where he said "neither of us could read the menu".
"It was love at first sight. Jackie had everything - the looks, the smile, the blonde hair. Instant attraction," he wrote.
After she initially rejected him, Wally sent Jackie flowers every day until she eventually conceded, and he quickly asked her to go with him to the UK, where he had received an offer to play for English club Wakefield Trinity.
When she couldn't get leave from her job at KR Darling Downs at Murarrie, the budding rugby league star rang her boss and said "we'll ditch our current sponsor at the deli and get all our smallgoods from you".
He left for Wakefield - where the couple returned two years ago for a "wonderful reunion" - on December two and he proposed to Jackie on Christmas Day, the day after she arrived.
They married the following summer at St John's Cathedral, where Wally recalled hearing a cheer go up as her Rolls-Royce bridal car arrived.
"It was a special day. I don't know what I'd do without her," he wrote.
Jackie gave birth to their three children as Wally navigated his career as captain of Australia and Queensland and suffered a series of blows in the early 1990s including injury, an epilepsy diagnosis and a devastating public sacking from the Brisbane Broncos.
"What got me through? No doubt - Jackie and the kids," he wrote. "I wasn't equipped to deal with such a quick and complete change of fortune. I leant heavily on Jackie, who was a tower of strength."
Jackie was a 28-year-old mother of three children under four and spoke in the book of her dedication to creating a "safe haven" for Wally.
"In my eyes, the end of his time at the Broncos, I thought, as a wife and a mother, was our gain and their loss. I had my husband home and the kids had their father home. I hadn't had my husband home - properly home - for some years," Jackie wrote.
"That stuff, as it was at the Broncos, that was happening to Wally, not me. My job was to be a mum and a wife. Really, my job didn't change. I just had to try and keep Wally on course in his professional life, to continue to support him more and more."
"(Fame's) all great but I've always made sure that the home Wally comes home to is our real world. That's his home. If that's not working then he has no safe haven and in turn our family wouldn't feel like it's a safe haven. If nothing else, I've always wanted to make it just that."
"You do what's best for the family. Family always wins in my case."
In the book, it was revealed Jackie was also Wally's bookkeeper, she organised second private numbers for him and when that didn't work she called Telstra and arranged a "private, private number" under his nickname.
She played netball with his mother and was among the only people to attend his grandmother's funeral while he was away.
In Wally's media career, every colleague at Nine News and in the commentary team has been treated to Jackie's famed caramel slice, which she would send with her husband to work.
Jackie also waited nervously alongside her sons during Wally's four-hour brain surgery in 2007 and helped him through his recovery and subsequent depression.
"Jackie had somehow reached the conclusion my depression was because she wasn't looking after me well enough!" Wally wrote in My Life. "Jackie thought love would fix it - love fixed everything".
Speaking of Wally's health battles, Jackie wrote in her chapter of the book: "There have been many challenges thrown at us, but we've got our health and that's the main thing. Wally's fine now. While that part of us is strong everything else can be fixed."
Originally published as Inside Wally Lewis' marriage before heartbreaking split