• South Sydney say NRL star Greg Inglis is in good spirits as he wages his battle with depression. (AAP)Source: AAP
A movie should be made about Greg Inglis' story as he is an inspiration to kids everywhere, according to former rugby league player and Over the Black Dot panellist Owen Craigie.
By
Owen Craigie

Source:
Over the Black Dot
24 May 2017 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 24 May 2017 - 10:58 AM

Hearing about Greg Inglis’ current battles, it just showed me that mental health doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone from your international superstars, to your people that are homeless on the streets, to your politicians, to your doctors - it affects everyone and anyone and please, please do go and speak to someone. Cos it will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t look after yourself and get help.

There’s probably a lot of pressure on Greg because he’s so iconic amongst rugby league generally. But what he does for his people and his culture speaks volumes.

It’s people like Greg that give other kids hope and coming from Bowraville and Macksville and doing what he’s achieved, if he was an American playing in America they’d make a movie on him and a documentary on him.

It’s a great story and Greg will always be down in the history books as one of the greatest Aboriginal players, if not one of the players of all time, with Johnathan Thurston. And what he’s done for our people, he’s helped changed lives and enhanced kids’ lives, because they all want to be the next Greg Inglis.

It shows that the importance of family and community is everything.

It takes a community to raise a child and it takes a family to learn your values and your morals. You become what you learn at home from your learning behaviours from the family that you’re with.

Depending on what that looks like, I’m not quite sure. But it’s even more important for athletes and especially as Aboriginal athletes who are classified as double disadvantaged anyway, to go out there, re-skill yourself up with work and plan for what life’s gonna look like when you hang the boots up. Because if you don’t plan it and get ready for it, it can either make you or break ya.

But this is the really important thing: when players retire or get a bad injury, not one of them have plan B set. They haven’t got a plan for the future.

When I heard Greg was struggling, it wasn’t so much of a shock for me, because I speak to a lot of footballers about what they’re dealing with.

I think what we’re missing here, and I take my hat off to Grego for putting himself into rehab and trying to get his mental health in place, but what people don’t recognise, and I’m only saying this cos I’ve come through it and I’ve seen other people lose their lives and not make it through to the other side, through suicide or whatever, but no one’s focusing on the transition from big-time footballer back to coming back into the society.

And this is why a lot of footballers, when they retire, they don’t know what to do with themselves. Because they’re not training with the team, they’re not in the limelight, they’re not travelling around playing footy; the hyped up lifestyle’s not there anymore.

But this is the really important thing: when players retire or get a bad injury, not one of them have plan B set. They haven’t got a plan for the future.

So that transition from footballer back to normal lifestyle is where people either make it or break it. And it’s even harder to make that transition than what it is to play football.

The only way I’ve made a success is to now go back and do my education. My diploma in counselling and all these certificates in the line of work that I do. But when I retired, no one wanted nothing to do with me. I suffered with depression, I was broke. I’m one of thousands of footballers that retire each year.

Some people get into drugs, people get into alcohol, people lose the plot, they make bad decisions, their mental health, the gambling addictions – everything spirals out of control because they want to live the lifestyle that they once had, but it’s not there. And that environment that they’re so used to for the last 15, 20 years is not there.

They’ve now gotta be out there with the general population trying to make it in life with no skills, no qualifications. So this is what scares a lot of footballers – that fear of failing, when they make that transition from professional athlete to normal society and that’s the issue, that’s the problem. It’s not so much mental health, that’s all the trigger for mental health.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to be so robotic. Go out there, and this is one thing that rugby union does really well – some of them go to university, college, diplomas and their plan B is pretty much in place before they even retire. We as rugby league players, we come from broken homes, broken communities, broken families. We didn’t have the same mentality.

The only way I’ve made a success is to now go back and do my education. My diploma in counselling and all these certificates in the line of work that I do. But when I retired, no one wanted nothing to do with me. I suffered with depression, I was broke. I’m one of thousands of footballers that retire each year.

But it’s only a small, maybe one per cent of players, like your Johns’ and your Fitlers that go out there and get a job. I know JT will probably have a media career – so he should be, he’ll be the ninth Immortal. But players like Greg and other players – it’s that transition I think people are scared and fearful of making that transition from Greg Inglis the superstar to going back into the real world.

On Over the Black Dot on Wednesday night at 9:30pm on NITV, we’ll take a look as always at the big issues in the game and this week we’ll also discuss both of the sides named for the first Sate of Origin game.

But I think they’ve left out the best in-form player in the competition in James Roberts. I don’t know what more this kid could do to state that he is ready for representative football.

Unfortunately for him, I think he just needs to keep playing football. If James Roberts was a Queenslander, he’d be picked for Queensland. That’s the difference. If he was a Queenslander he’d be playing for Queensland, because Queensland pick blokes on performance, not on reputation.

But James is a competitor, it’ll just motivate him even more. It’ll just motivate him and he’s likely to go over there and score three tries on Saturday for the Broncos against the Warriors.

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

If you or anyone you know wants to seek extra help please contact:

Lifeline on 13 11 14 
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 
Headspace on 1800 650 890