Ahead of the Game: Rugby League Stars Aim to Help Next Generation Raise Mental Health Awareness | Rugby League News


Rugby League players come together to educate others on mental health awareness

For over a decade, the rugby league has been a pioneer sport in opening conversations about mental health. Now some of the biggest names in the game are trying to keep the next generation from suffering from the same issues they did.

Presented in partnership with the 2021 Rugby Union World Cup and Movember UK, the ‘Ahead of the Game’ program sees 15 players from the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions interact in the community with players and coaches.

Among them, Kevin Laroyer, the former French international struggling with mental health problems since childhood, having been placed in low-cost housing at the age of six after suffering abuse from his mother.

His story, along with those of several other former Super League players, is told in the ‘Ahead of the game’ documentary available via Sky On Demand, and the 32-year-old explained how those struggles growing up in Toulouse affected him.

“I felt abandoned because I had a lot of questions like ‘why am I being taken and my sister can stay with mum and dad?'” Said Larroyer.

“There were 12 of us on bunk beds and no bedtime fuss and at night it was when I was crying. I started playing rugby and it was my happy place.

“Rugby has always been my way out, so I put all my heart into rugby and it’s a place where I feel valued.”

Kevin Laarroer uses his experiences to help the next generation

Kevin Laarroer uses his experiences to help the next generation

Even his rugby career has seen him face challenges, suffering from a long-term injury, then seeing his three-year contract with Hull Kingston Rovers end soon after the club’s relegation from the Super League in 2016. , just days after buying a house and with a newborn baby. child to keep.

Then, shortly after moving to Castleford Tigers, Larroyer received the devastating news that his sister had committed suicide, and that, along with his desire to help children avoid the problems he was suffering from, was a motivator. to join the campaign to improve mental health.

“My sister was a big factor, but it’s also when I was in a hole people reached out to me,” said Laroyer. “Now I feel a lot better, I feel like it’s my job to give back.

“Now, being a father, I don’t want my son to experience one percent of how I felt as a child, but I don’t want a child to feel like he is unloved, useless and unloved. unrecognized, and I want these kids to develop their self-confidence.

“If you know how good you are and how good you are, when you have a setback you think ‘I can do it’.”

Then there’s Keith Senior, the Sheffield Eagles and Leeds Rhinos great who has enjoyed a trophy-rich career, won international caps for Great Britain and was one of the fiercest competitors of his generation. . However, he struggled to come to terms with the abrupt end of his career at the age of 35 after suffering an ACL injury.

Senior remembers how his life got out of hand, including when he left his marriage, to the point that he realized he needed help when he ended up bumping into a wall of angry after a night out while staying with a former teammate.

“I woke up not realizing what had happened, I ended up sitting on the sofa bursting into tears and thinking I had wasted my life,” Senior said. “I had a career that some of these kids aspire and dream of, but my mental state was terrible.

I woke up not understanding what had happened, I ended up sitting on the sofa bursting into tears and thinking that I had wasted my life.

Keith Senior on his mental health issues

“Now it’s about managing it a lot better, understanding it a lot better and controlling the controllable things.

“I couldn’t control what happened to my knee, and that’s the way you deal with it. There’s trauma, there’s the management and then it’s the acceptance that things are happening within. your life.

“I am very grateful and appreciate the career I have had now, which I have had to accept and appreciate.”

These mental health issues, however, can arise at any point in a player’s career, as former Warrington Wolves forward Paul Wood discovered.

Paul Wood suffered from mental health issues during his playing career

Paul Wood suffered from mental health issues during his playing career

Wood had developed obsessive-compulsive disorder in his early teens and these intrusive thoughts almost led to his suicide when he was forced to sit on the sidelines for a long time in 2014 while recovering from an injury, although fate intervened and the support of her family also helped.

“I was thinking about it and a guy came up to me in a parking lot and practically dissuaded me,” said Wood, who is currently training to be a counselor and runs workshops with “Ahead of the Game”.

“He scolded me though because someone he knew had done the same and it was a huge realization of how your head can play tricks on me and tell me that life is not worth worth living, but it actually is.

“Being in this place of not wanting to die but also wanting to die is a difficult place, but I have a really supportive family who love me and want to see the best for me.”

If you are concerned about or would like to talk about any mental wellness issues, please contact the Samaritans on the toll-free helpline 116 123, or visit the site

“Ahead of the Game”, the story of a team of former rugby league professionals opening up about their battles against mental health and their mission to educate the next generation on the importance of the issue, is available through Sky On Demand.



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