'Happy' Boyd finds his State of Mind
All 14 selected representatives have their own unique stories and experiences to tell but it's fair to say Broncos' State of Mind ambassador Darius Boyd has the most intriguing one.
On Monday the NRL announced that it had appointed its first game-wide State of Mind ambassadors to help increase mental health literacy in clubs and communities.
In all, 14 ambassadors have been appointed following liaison with club coaches to support mental health – one of the country's greatest health issues – with mental illness affecting one in two people nationally.
The NRL is working in coalition with Lifeline, Kids Helpline, Headspace and the Black Dog Institute to implement a number of new initiatives being launched in May.
For too long the rugby league world misinterpreted Boyd's quirky antics and aloofness when it came to media responsibilities as arrogance and immaturity.
Little did they know about Boyd's troubled childhood as a result of his mother leaving him with his grandmother at age 15 and never knowing his father.
But it all made sense in August last year when the then Newcastle Knights player successfully walked out of a three-week rehabilitation program to combat depression.
His last game for the Knights before checking himself in to a psychiatric hospital in Sydney’s west was the club's 22-8 home loss to fellow strugglers Gold Coast in Round 19 on July 20.
That moment was a low point in the Origin and Test star's career but his outlook on life would change after the completion of his 21-day program.
Thankfully for Boyd's sake he completed that course because his inner strength and resolve would be tested again in December when he ruptured his left Achilles during pre-season training for the Broncos.
Now back in his home town of Brisbane, the 27-year-old can once again crack a smile after kicking the black dog to the curb and making a successful injury comeback against the Panthers last Friday – some two months ahead of schedule.
"I'm just excited. I'm enjoying things at the moment, enjoying where I'm at, enjoying being in Brisbane, being at this club. On and off the field everything's going well so I'm pretty happy," Boyd said on Monday.
"I'm feeling pretty good. I was just happy to get through and get the win [on Friday]. Those were the two key things and I felt like I contributed enough for my first game and looking to improve on that.
"I was really nervous but I was really excited too. I think I hadn't played for so long and there were a lot of nerves and a little bit of pressure and I really wanted to enjoy it too.
"I haven't been at the Broncos for a long time now and I love being here and the club has been great to me. So I think obviously having that first one out of the way, I'm looking forward to playing again this week."
A veteran of 205 NRL games, 20 Origins and 17 Tests, the two-time premiership winner endured an isolated pre-season at Brisbane's Red Hill base while recovering from injury.
How far he has come as a person was on show when he accompanied Wayne Bennett to the post-match press conference following his comeback game and then fronted up for more media on Monday, a far cry from the man who previously treated the media with disdain.
"Obviously there was lot of hard work and some lonely days there training by myself a little bit but I did everything I was asked to do," he said of his injury recuperation.
"I did everything the physios would say and I would always ice it and train really hard just as much as I could and it seemed to go really well so it was a bit of hard work and a bit of luck too."
Although Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett says Boyd's best football is still another month away, the 2010 Clive Churchill Medallist was already nit-picking his performance one game into his Broncos return after a six-season hiatus.
"I'm a perfectionist. I'd like to get [back to my best] straight away but watching the tape back I was pretty happy after the game," he said.
"Watching the tape a bit [on Monday] there was a few things I could improve on especially in our attack and gelling with the six (Anthony Milford), seven (Ben Hunt) and nine (Andrew McCullough).
"I wanted to get involved early, kick-chase and get a couple of touches and then kind of just see how the game would go after that and see how it would flow. I suppose getting that first touch is always the monkey off the back and you can settle down and enjoy it."
Now with his comeback game done and dusted and barring any flair-ups with his Achilles, Boyd is considered a certain starter for Queensland in Origin I on May 27.
Such is his admiration for Queensland's equal leading try-scorer, Maroons coach Mal Meninga declared last week that Boyd would be on the wing for Game One in Sydney regardless of whether he played for Brisbane beforehand.
"I think it was a good step in the right direction on Friday and there's another good one this Friday," said Boyd, who scored two of his 15 Origin tries on debut in Game Two, 2008. "I suppose Origin is another step up but in saying that I usually play on the wing and it's probably a little less more involved and a little less work.
"I'm sure if Mal picks me I'll be ready to go for it."
However before Boyd can think of Origin, he must help the Broncos overcome a rejuvenated Cowboys side riding high after six wins on the trot.
The two competition points on offer are crucial to both sides as they head into the Origin period looking to remain with the Telstra Premiership top four.
"It's always a big clash against the Cowboys for the Broncos and obviously up there they're a different side to when the boys played them last time (in Round 3) and they've won six in a row now," he said.
"So they've all got those class players that can always be in the game and it's obviously going to be a tough one but all the boys are looking forward to it."