Willagee Rugby League Club lead the way for NRL's State of Mind program

NRL's Community Programs Deliverer Clinton Toopi acknowledges the Willagee Rugby League club as the benchmark for their commitment to the games State of Mind program.

The Willagee Bears kick-started the program at the end of last year and have become the first club in Western Australia to officially complete all four facets of the program.

The four-step recognition process involves a mental health education session facilitated by trained NRL Community Program Deliverers - ex-NRL players and current Jillaroos, the development of a mental health action plan tailored to the club that covers everything from setting up an inclusive club to responding to critical incidents and recognition for their commitment to the above steps.

The former New Zeland international and Gold Coast Titans centre told NRL.com that Willagee have gone above and beyond the criteria.

"Willagee is the benchmark in leading the way in this space," Toopi said.

"They have been through all the four stages of becoming a recognised club but they've gone to the extent of putting together an actual State of Mind Welfare team within their club.

"That's something that you have at an elite level and they're doing it at grassroots level, it's amazing."

The program leaves clubs better equipped to deal with situations that involve mental health – how to identify it, how to deal with it and where to find the further support outlets.

The program was developed in partnership with its expert partners Lifeline, Kids Helpline, headspace and The Black Dog Institute.

The General Manager for the NRL in Western Australia, John Sackson, acknowledged the support of the Western Australian government in establishing the program.

"I want to give terrific credit to the Western Australian government," Sackson said.

"They have contributed $100,000 to enable NRL WA to roll this program out in every rugby league club throughout the state and to effectively be the first state to complete the program.

"A massive show of appreciation must go to Deputy Minister Roger Cook and the Western Australian Government for their support.

"They saw the importance in supporting grassroots mental health awareness programs at all the junior rugby league club across Western Australia."

Willagee Bears are a heritage club of rugby league in Western Australia and go back over 60 years.

The club held a function last Saturday at which Toopi presented a recognition plaque on behalf of the NRL to club president Steve Bannister.

"It was great to see a club like this celebrated for their efforts," Sackson said.

"It has been well embraced at Willagee and all of the clubs that we have been able to present the program to so far.

"The feedback has been extremely positive."

Toopi will return to Perth next year to visit the Pilbara and Kimberley region to deliver the program.

To get involved in Willagee Rugby League Club's future State of Mind program/s, follow the WRLC's Facebook page or for More information on NRL State of Mind program go to www.nrlstateofmind.com.au