Rugby league film hits home for Newton
When Clint Newton watched Australian film 'Broke' for the first time he recognised immediately the struggles it portrays but as general manager for player relations with the Rugby League Players Association also knows the changes that are being made.
'Broke' is a film by Australian director Heath Davis that charts the life of former North Sydney cult hero Ben Kelly after his playing days are finished and the ensuing battles with alcohol and gambling that tear his life apart.
It's a fictitious piece of entertainment with a very real grounding that Newton says identifies issues that are prevalent not only amongst rugby league players but society as a whole.
"It was quite confronting for me because I can certainly draw comparisons to the character Ben and some players that I've seen in my life," Newton told NRL.com.
"Heath brought me along on the journey and explained what it was about and I saw the importance of the film in a couple of different ways.
"One was recognising the past and how some players had slipped through the cracks and the societal problem we are facing now with alcoholism and gambling and mental health.
"The other was how the game is moving forward in big strides, both the NRL and RLPA, in trying to offset some of the issues that you see in the film.
"In the movie there's a quote that says 'There's no game-plan for life' but that's the mentality we're trying to change, that there is a game-plan.
"Yes, like any rugby league game-plan it might not go as planned but by putting a plan in place and putting some structure in place it certainly offsets the chances of you not achieving your desired outcome both on and off the field."
Newton's rugby league career spanned 15 seasons and more than 270 games in the NRL and Super League and since retiring at the end of last season has become a key figure in his role with the RLPA.
But like Ben Kelly in Broke, many players finish their playing days and are left with no identity outside the game, something that Newton says the RLPA and NRL are committed to changing.
Currently engaged in negotiations around a five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NRL and its clubs, Newton said that the RLPA is very keen to explore opportunities for players to further themselves with dedicated time each week for personal and professional development.
"The days of the 24/7 footballer are fortunately diminishing by the day because it's not healthy," Newton said.
"That's where the RLPA and the NRL can continue to work together to try and further educate people around the benefits of being engaged in stuff outside of rugby league.
"When you do play at the elite level you walk the tightrope of vulnerability and invincibility and when that final whistle goes on your career – particularly if you've had a long career – that's all you've ever known.
"Sometimes you've got to try and find your identity outside of rugby league and the character in the movie doesn't have any identity outside of rugby league.
"Once you retire or walk away from any sport, you don't become powerless and someone who can't contribute to the community, you've just got to do it in a different way.
"There are a number of elements in the movie that we can all relate to.
"It strikes at the core of some societal problems and by recognising it and opening up some communication lines and having courageous conversations with people, we can actually drive change.
"We can start to become part of the solution and not part of the problem where we remain silent about these issues that we are all facing."
Broke starring Steve Le Marquand, Claire Van Der Boom, Max Cullen and Brendan Cowell is out now on DVD and also available by video-on-demand.
A special screening of 'Broke' will be shown in Perth on Wednesday October 12 in the lead-up to the Kangaroos' Test against New Zealand. Click here for ticket information.