League star tackles mental health with students

Former Australian and Rabbitohs rugby league legend Greg Inglis is sharing his story with students in a bid to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

09 November 2020
Storage shed with mural painted on side of man in football uniform with arms outstretched in front of yellow circle.
Image: A mural featuring Greg Inglis was unveiled during his visit to Rowland Hassall School's Waratah Centre.

Former Australian and South Sydney Rabbitohs player Greg Inglis might not be diving across the tryline on the rugby league field anymore, but this week he was helping students tackle a bigger foe.

Through his Goanna Academy, Mr Inglis visited Rowland Hassall School’s Waratah Centre in western Sydney and shared his experiences with students from four schools – Plumpton, Rowland Hassall and Carenne schools and the Waratah Centre.

Having gone public about his own struggles with mental health, the league legend wanted to promote positive choices and emphasise the impacts those choices could make on students’ wellbeing and mental health.

Waratah Centre’s Brad Bevan said the visit had originated in a decision to move sporting equipment at the school into a shipping container that they planned to paint.

“We wanted to raise the recognition of indigenous culture at the school and the kids came up with the idea to paint Greg Inglis on the side [of the shipping container],” he said.

When he reached out to seek permission to use Mr Inglis’s image, his team at the Goanna Academy asked if they could work with the school.

Mr Bevan said many of the students came to the school wearing league jerseys and were excited to meet the former Queensland Origin player.

“A lot of them were initially quite intimidated because he is really tall, but he was so down to earth and genuine,” Mr Bevan said.

“To watch 26 School for Specific Purposes kids be completely engaged for an hour was absolutely incredible.

“They were just in awe of him and hanging on his every word.”

Man stands in front of classroom with image of footballer projected onto whiteboard. Students sit on chairs in classroom.
Image: Sharing his story: Greg Inglis talks about how he has overcome his mental health issues.

Mr Bevan said the students were amazed at how open the sports star was about his own life experiences and how he had overcome mental health issues throughout his life.

“Keeping my mind busy really helped me to focus on the positive things happening in my life,” Mr Inglis told the students.

“I am just a real person, once you take away the fame and sporting achievements, I’m not different to any of you out there.”

One Year 12 student said it was inspiring to hear that even someone that looked like they had the best life could still have those challenges.

“To see that he’s made it through those tough times really helps,” the student said.

Mr Inglis also spoke about his initiative – the Goanna Academy – which is a platform through which he aims to raise awareness of mental health issues.

As part of the day’s events, Mr Inglis was taken to the sports field for an unveiling of his portrait on the sports storage unit.

Due to COVID restrictions the number of students at the event was limited, however Mr Bevan said it was planned to build on the relationship and hold a similar event in 12 months.

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