Greg Inglis training with the 2015 State of Origin Queensland side.
Greg Inglis training with the 2015 State of Origin Queensland side. Warren Lynam

AFL great says NRL must learn from depression cases

THE last thing Sydney Swans and North Melbourne champion Wayne Schwass wanted to do was to hijack the football community's discussion surrounding depression, but his comments around the NRL's recent cases of mental health are too striking to ignore.

The AFL premiership winner and long-term mental health advocate has spoken out about the circumstances surrounding Brisbane Broncos captain Darius Boyd's recovery in a mental health facility in 2014.

Boyd has emerged as the inspiration behind NRL star and close mate Greg Inglis seeking treatment for depression.

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett believes Brisbane skipper Boyd "led the way" in Inglis checking into a facility last week, after battling on and off field issues since suffering a season-ending knee injury in the NRL opening round.

Boyd reportedly was so concerned about Inglis' health he personally organised professional help in Sydney for his long-time Queensland teammate.

Three years ago, Boyd revealed Inglis was one of the very few players and teammates to visit him during his three-week stay in a mental health facility while battling depression.

Schwass says that is not good enough this time around.

Wayne Schwass is a mental health advocate.
Wayne Schwass is a mental health advocate. News Corp Australia

He said the game must learn to support players with mental health issues and hopes Inglis will get much more support than Boyd did.

"My immediate thought when I read that was, that's sad," Schwass told Triple M's Merrickville on Thursday night of Boyd's lack of support.

"That's sad that only one person within the NRL community went and saw him when he needed help. If someone's in a normal hospital with any normal medical condition we don't hesitate to go and visit the person.

"We have to get passed this. We need people to be able to calmly and confidently go and visit people like Greg Inglis or Darius Boyd. If they're in a hospital irrespective of whether it's a general hospital or a mental hospital, people need our support unconditionally."

HOW DARIUS BOYD RESCUED INGLIS:

DARIUS Boyd said he would never forget the way Inglis helped him when he was at his lowest ebb and he's shown that in the support he has given his Queensland State of Origin teammate in the past few weeks.

"It was a bit of a shock (when Inglis visited) and it really meant a lot to me," Boyd told The Daily Telegraph in 2015.
"It just shows the great guy that he is.

"I've known him for a while and we've roomed together for so long and he's a good friend."

Boyd is now a model case for players dealing with similar mental stress.

Bennett said Boyd's brave decision to check himself into rehab in 2014 had helped pave the way for other NRL players to follow.

Darius Boyd pictured at a regional clinic in March.
Darius Boyd pictured at a regional clinic in March. Meghan Kidd

"Darius probably led the way," Bennett said.

"He was so open about it. He told everybody where he was going, didn't hide it and now he is a changed bloke.

"He is a pathfinder in that regard. A lot of (NRL) players have gone after him (to seek treatment), which is good.

"The best part is recognising they have a problem and go and get some help."

The likes of Sydney Roosters half Mitchell Pearce and backrower Paul Carter have sought professional help since Boyd shocked the NRL by checking into rehab and failing to finish the 2014 season with Newcastle.

Boyd emerged the next year at Brisbane a changed man and has not looked back, regaining career best form and earning the Brisbane captaincy. Bennett hinted that Boyd also had a hands-on approach to Inglis' treatment. Boyd reportedly helped book Inglis into the same Sydney facility he used in 2014.

Inglis is expected to stay there for another two weeks.

"Someone pretty close to me - without naming names - was involved in helping him get some advice," Bennett said.

Asked if it was injury that had sparked Inglis' battle, Bennett said:

"It's more than just injury. I don't want to go into it, but there would be more issues than just injury."

Inglis was reportedly upset that news of his depression had become public. But Bennett hoped Boyd had helped remove the "stigma" of depression among NRL players. 

"It's an issue in our society and it always has been," he 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."

INGLIS HAS FULL SUPPORT OF FOOTY COMMUNITY:

FORMER Queensland star Justin Hodges said he spoke with Greg Inglis on Wednesday night and claimed the Rabbitohs strike weapon felt "lost".

The NRL community has rallied around Inglis since his shock news, led by his former Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.

"He's a pretty special guy. To hear that is quite sad," Bellamy said.

"I want to tell him everyone here at the Storm is thinking of him and we still love him.

"But knowing the sort of guy he is, he will get through this."

Meanwhile, Sydney AFL coach John Longmire said Swans star Lance Franklin's public battle had taught him elite sporting clubs were now better equipped to deal with mental health issues.

Franklin missed the 2015 AFL finals series before bouncing back to earn All- Australian honours last year.

"I've got no doubt now society is much more equipped, particularly sporting clubs, to be able to deal with those challenges," Longmire said.

News Corp Australia

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