Inglis absence hits the Maroons hard

Bodies sometimes break – players accept that as a hazard of their chosen profession – but the absence this week of Greg Inglis from the Queensland Origin camp has highlighted a mental and emotional fragility that most men never wish to comprehend.

Two years ago Darius Boyd entered the sanctuary of a Maroons camp virtually unrecognisable from the man whose awkward exchange with a journalist following Game Three of the 2014 series ultimately led him to seek help for mental health issues.

In his 21-day stay at a mental health clinic Boyd had few visitors but Inglis took time out to visit the man with whom he had shared such a lethal combination on Queensland's left edge, an act that Boyd says he will never forget.

Still in the relative early stages of recovery from a season-ending ACL injury, it is Inglis who has now put his hand up to seek help for issues relating to his mental health.

 


Despite his injury the intention of Queensland coach Kevin Walters was always to bring Inglis into camp in a coaching/mentoring capacity and while that offer remains very much open, his Queensland teammates know there are more pressing matters the Rabbitohs star must first address.

Reluctant to speak specifically about what Inglis is going through, Boyd said he was at least comforted to know that one of Queensland Origin's statesmen felt that he could seek the help that he needed.

"I don't really want to talk too much about 'GI', it's his story to tell if and when his family are ready," Boyd said. "He was a great support for me and I'd like to be a support for him if he needs it.

"At the end of the day we all want to be happy people and enjoy fulfilment in life. I love playing rugby league and rugby league has given me a lot and I'm very grateful for all the opportunities I've received but the flipside is that there is a lot of negativity, a lot of spotlight and sometimes things are said that aren't great about yourself and it's hard to deal with over a number of years.

"The more people that put their hand up and speak up and say that they need help in anything – whether it's to do with rugby league or your childhood or anything related to your mental health – to be a happier person and enjoy life more you'd be silly not to put your hand up and ask for it."

"Whether you've got a problem or not at least people know it's OK to talk about these things and if you've got a drama to stick your hand up."

Darius Boyd.

Seeing Inglis is such a vulnerable state is simultaneously strange for Maroons right centre Justin O'Neill and also very relatable.

When he made his NRL debut for Melbourne at 19 years of age O'Neill stood outside a man who seemed all but indestructible and helped to usher a kid from North Queensland into the big time.

Four years later O'Neill was trying to fight his way back from injury in the relative anonymity of NSW Cup with Storm's feeder team Cronulla and said it took a dramatic change to leave Melbourne for Townsville to turn things around.

"We feel for Greggy," O'Neill said. "All our thoughts are with him. We're disappointed to hear his injury news and now as well, we wish him all the best.

"He kick-started my career, playing outside of 'GI'. He made my job a whole lot easier. He was very professional in the way he went about things.

"It's hard to come back at times. I think a lot of players do focus on the negatives, and the negatives going on in their lives at that time.

"It's important to look at the positives as well and make sure you enjoy them a lot more than the negatives weighing you down.

"I know I had a slump in my career when I was just about to leave Storm and I came off a couple of bad injuries and found myself in reserve grade.

"I was trying to work my way back up but it wasn't happening.

"So the change [to the Cowboys] did me the world of good. A new environment, new team, and put myself in position I wouldn't be too comfortable with having to meet new faces and learning new things."

After missing last year's series himself due to injury, Will Chambers is the man tasked with filling the left centre position that Inglis has dominated in the Queensland team since 2008 but he knows better than anyone that he can't take the place of 'GI'.

"I'm not going to be able to do what 'GI' does," Chambers said.

"He's a special talent. I can only concentrate on playing good consistent footy. I can't emulate what he's done – I'm no chance of that."

But what Inglis and Boyd have shown is that players at every level of the game are subject to the same pressures and that acknowledging personal difficulties is a show of strength, not weakness.

"There was a young bloke at the [Broncos] who had a chat to our welfare officer and came and grabbed me as well and had a bit of a chat about things and I thought that was awesome, for a young kid to be able to speak up and put his hand up and want to have a chat," said Boyd.

"That shows we've come leaps and bounds in our footy circles. There's still a long way to go but it's great what the NRL are doing with the State of Mind program, getting out to junior clubs and talking about it.

"Whether you've got a problem or not at least people know it's OK to talk about these things and if you've got a drama to stick your hand up."