Heartache driving Tigers star to help others
It's a regret that has weighed heavily on his shoulders for the past three years but Wests Tigers back-rower Sauaso Sue is taking steps to ensure it's something he never has to live through again.
In 2013 Sue, the Wests Tigers club and the rugby league community as a whole was rocked when promising young forward Mosese Fotuiaka took his own life and shed a greater light on the mental health issues being faced by young men throughout not only rugby league but society as a whole.
On Friday night all Wests Tigers will wear blue socks to not only raise awareness about mental health and the beyondblue organisation that is one of the NRL State of Mind key partners but hopefully start a conversation.
Speaking to Pamela Whaley in this week's issue of Big League, Sue opened up about not only the tragedy of Fotuiaka's passing but his desire to be a person young men of Pacific Island heritage can feel comfortable talking to about the issues in their life.
"He was quiet and wasn't himself," Sue says of the day Fotuiaka tore his pec during pre-season training with the Tigers' NRL squad.
"We tried to call him after training but he wouldn't pick up.
"Late that night we got a phone call from his partner that he had gone.
"I regret it now, not popping into his house and chilling with him.
"Under-20s players especially, if they don't get a first-grade contract or if they get a serious injury, the dark cloud can come in. It can be a split second reaction and it's all finished. It's still sad to think about."
Sue and Wests Tigers co-captain Chris Lawrence are both beyondblue ambassadors and have undergone extensive training with mental health professionals to be aware of the signs someone may be suffering a mental illness and most importantly how to react.
Of Samoan heritage, Sue believes he is in an even more privileged position to understand the difficulty those of Pacific Island heritage have in addressing such issues and to be someone they can turn to.
"I want to be that person for the Islanders to approach," he says.
"When you're coming through the ranks, especially for Pacific Islanders, there is a lot of pressure to provide for your family. I know personally how it feels, but I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to play first grade.
"Families are also becoming more aware of it. That's a big thing – that they know not to put too much pressure on their kids.
"Depression is a silent killer – sometimes it's hard to notice signs. Beyondblue have taught us how to combat it and how to approach guys who you think might have a problem."
For more information on the NRL's State of Mind campaign visit www.nrlstateofmind.com.au.
To read the full story on Sauaso Sue get this week's issue of Big League on sale at newsagents and at the ground. Digital version also available through www.zinio.com and through the iTunes and Google Play stores.