The issue of depression in Rugby League has become increasingly prominent following Newcastle Knight, Darius Boyd’s, admission to a mental health clinic, three months ago.
Depression has always been a sensitive topic within Rugby League due to the fact it has impacted, and to an extent, enveloped certain athletes’ careers and lives. High-profile sufferers of the disease include Preston Campbell, Dean Widders, Reni Maitua and now Boyd.
What is worrying for the NRL is that not only has depression claimed the life of a young West Tiger, but a player poll released this year, in which 100 players from all 16 clubs were interviewed, showed that 29 per cent of current NRL players have suffered depression at some point in their lives.
The already concerning percentage was bolstered by the fact that 79 per cent of players admitted they know of a fellow player who has suffered, or is suffering, from depression. The poll also unearthed that 37 per cent of players don’t think there is enough support for players suffering from depression.
Darius Boyd, the most recent high-profile athlete to battle depression, has always been offside with media, and now he has had his chance to rectify the broken relationship they share – an act he did in bewildering fashion.
Boyd’s troubled past has led to his recent emotional landslide and is also responsible for the rocky relationship, he and most journalists, have shared for the duration of his career.
Deserted by his father, a man who he has never met, and then left by his mother at the age of 15, Boyd was shifted to the care of his grandmother and since has struggled to truly trust anyone, only confiding in his closest of companions.
Boyd’s public image was tarnished by his confusing approach to press conferences in which he is known for his one-word answers, and a less than warm approach to questions raised. The way in which Boyd has presented himself throughout his career has led the majority of those who follow the game to critique his every move.
However, following his release from a 21 day rehabilitation program, Boyd shocked all as he took part in a ‘tell all interview’ and has thus changed the perception of many, as he strives to rebuild his broken and tattered past.
Boyd spoke of how the missing people in his life are responsible for his inability to trust. But the devastating injury to close friend and teammate, Alex McKinnon, made him reach breaking point. Boyd notably stated “it was like another loss in my life”.
With one of his closest friends facing the prospect of being unable to walk again, his wife leaving him, turmoil at the Knights, a drop in form and scrutiny from the media, the taking was too much for Boyd and he knew it was time for help.
Boyd’s issues with depression have come at an extremely sensitive time following the death of movie star Robin Williams. The fact that not even one of the world’s funniest men and someone with so much to live for could overcome the disease has significantly raised the public’s opinion of Boyd. And for Darius, now out of care and picking up the pieces of what he left behind, there’s no looking back.
With a different outlook on what’s important in life, Boyd’s battle could be one that becomes a catalyst in helping sufferers confront their issues. With the difficulty of truly understanding if someone is suffering stages of depression, as so obviously explored through the Robin Williams story, one thing is for certain, the NRL must take action, now.