Greg Inglis addressed a stunned South Sydney leadership group before checking into a mental health rehabilitation facility last week, Now his Rabbitohs teammates – and the wider rugby league community – are rallying behind one of the game’s highest-profile stars in his battle with depression.
The Australian international and State of Origin’s greatest try-scorer received messages of support from NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and the game’s greatest coaches Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy, a day after the Rabbitohs confirmed Inglis has been having mental health treatment.
The South Sydney skipper told the club’s leadership group he would be checking into a rehabilitation clinic despite turning his hand to a mentoring role following a season-ending knee injury in round one.
“Greg personally spoke to the senior group – or leadership group within the team – and we spoke to the players throughout,” replacement skipper Sam Burgess said.
“Obviously the senior management throughout the club were aware and they tried to protect Greg’s privacy for as long as possible. Unfortunately these things are always going to come out.
“I don’t think anyone really knows what Greg’s feeling or thinking and for us to guess what it might be is probably a bit irresponsible.
“[But] when Greg comes out he’ll feel the love and support from thousands of people around the country. We’re proud of him for what he’s going through.”
Inglis’ plight particularly struck a chord with Rabbitohs centre Bryson Goodwin, whose older brother Leon took his own life in March.
Goodwin, who is part of the Rabbitohs’ leadership group, spoke a week later about why he decided to play for the Rabbitohs against the Knights just 24 hours after being told of his brother’s death.
“When [Inglis] said it I was taken aback, but I straight away just offered him my full support for him and his family,” Goodwin said. “It was out of the blue and it was a hard thing for him to do, but it was a step forward for him as well.
“Pretty much six of the seven days of the week you’re around 25 of your good friends for the majority of the day and then all of a sudden you spend time away [when injured] and it can be pretty tough I’d imagine. He’s gone to get the help he needs and he’ll be better for it.”
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire has lent on Inglis to take a more hands-on coaching role with South Sydney’s back five after he had a knee reconstruction following the opening round loss to the Tigers.
Inglis played more than half the match on one knee and refused to come from the ground at half-time. It was only after the game scans confirmed he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
Despite that he spent a week in camp with Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos before the Anzac Test.
“On the outside, our rugby league players look big and strong and fit,” Greenberg said.
“The message is simple – not just for our players but the broader community – which is, ‘if you’re going through some difficult moments, never be afraid to put your hand up’.
“Never be afraid to ask for some help, whether that’s professional or just a mate to talk to. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.”
Broncos coach Bennett credited Brisbane skipper Darius Boyd for helping inspire Inglis after the Clive Churchill medallist waged a very public battle with depression and is now one of the game’s most respected on-field figures.
“[Mental health] is an issue in our society and it always has been,” Bennett said. “But we are in a more open society. People don’t want to hide any more.
“In the past it was a stigma. It was seen as being weak – all that has been removed thank God.”
Craig Bellamy, Inglis’ former coach at the Storm, said: “He is a pretty special guy ‘GI’, but we know he is in good hands and with the sort of guy he is he will recover from this.
“But we want to tell him everyone at Storm is really thinking of him, have always loved him and still love him now.
“I know he will get through this, he is at a good club who are looking after him and he is with the right people.”
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