• Concerned teammates are keeping in contact with suspended Roosters NRL star Shaun Kenny-Dowall. (AAP)Source: AAP
Former rugby league player Owen Craigie says players need to take greater ownership of the decisions they are making off the field, as the NRL and the clubs are doing everything they can to support that process.
By
Owen Craigie

11 May 2017 - 12:59 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2017 - 12:59 PM

The NRL’s back tonight and it’s about time. And with Indigenous Round taking place, we can go back to celebrating the great things about rugby league.

Unfortunately, during rep round the off-field issues took centre stage.

I don’t know what the problem is. I haven’t got the answers and I haven’t got a magic wand. But I think at the end of the day, with the infrastructure and the setup of the way the NRL is and this competition is that if you do the wrong thing now and you play up and you get caught, it’s your own fault. It’s your own personal fault.

It’s got nothing to do with the game or the infrastructure or the clubs that these people come from. I think it’s a personal issue and I know it does reflect bad on the clubs and the cultures they’ve come from, but at the end of the day, no one’s forcing them to do these things either, away from footy.

The temptations might always be there, but it comes down to personal choices and control.

At the end of the day the NRL, they teach people on drugs culture and alcohol culture and everything else. If you stuff up today, it’s your own fault, it’s your own personal fault. Twenty years ago when I was coming through we never had the infrastructure that these guys have today either.

Some of the decisions these guys are making, it dumbfounds me, it really does.

The infrastructure and setup now is phenomenal and I just can’t understand how people keep making mistakes with the infrastructure that’s set up really well.

We’re not even halfway through the season and all these things are starting to spill out of the game.

It makes you realise, Jesse Bromwich and Shaun Kenny-Dowall and these guys – they’re great athletes, they’re great footballers. They’ve got a massive fan base out there and not only do they put their own reputation on the line, but their family, their club - the ripple effect is so big. It’s massive. And that’s what some people don’t realise; the effects of doing something stupid is gonna haunt them forever.

If you’ve got an addiction – it may be drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex addiction, binge drinking, whatever it may be - if you don’t address it and control it and get it out of your life while you’re a professional athlete, it will bring you undone and could kill you.

I’m very blessed that I’ve come through the other side but it took me a long long time to get to that stage. A very, very long time. And some people don’t come out the other side. It’s very important that they take control of their lives now and nip it out of their lifestyle.

Beating an addiction and trying to overcome that is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I think the game’s doing everything it possibly can to help people make the right decisions.

It took me about five, six years. It’s still a day-to-day battle now. You’ve got to learn how to control yourself and beat temptation. If you don’t know how to control your urges and your behaviours then you let things creep into your lifestyle and it brings you undone.

But the benefit is massive. I’m more successful now in life than I was ever playing football, and I’m not even on half the money I was on playing football.

So it comes down to choices. It comes down to decisions. And it just comes down to being honest and truthful with yourself and say ‘you know what, I’m going to overcome this and I want to enjoy my life’.

The first sign of any addiction and overcoming it is acceptance. Putting your hand up and saying ‘you know what, I have got an addiction. I have got an issue and a problem and I want to address it and attack it straight on’.

Because if you live with denial, it’s just gonna creep up on you and get bigger and bigger and bigger and before you know it, it’s 95 per cent that and five per cent you. You’ve let it overcome you and overtake your lifestyle. But the benefits of overcoming it is phenomenal.

I think the game’s doing everything it possibly can to help people make the right decisions.

Because if you need to see a psychologist or counsellor, they’ve got them there and organisations there that can help you with anything.

Even ex-players, you don’t have to be a current player to receive help from the NRL. I know players that haven’t played the game for 20 years and they still get assistance from the NRL when they need help.

The infrastructure and setup now is phenomenal and I just can’t understand how people keep making mistakes with the infrastructure that’s set up really well.

Catch Owen Craigie on Over the Black Dot, Wednesday at 9.30pm on NITV Ch.34.