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Roosters hooker Sam Verrills.

The Verrills family say Jack was most at home on the water or the footy field.

So brother Sam carries his initials, JV, on his wrist every time he takes the paddock for the Roosters.

Not quite with the 'human hurricane' intensity that bore Jack a broken arm, shoulder blade and eye socket during his junior days on the Northern Beaches. Or the broken back at age 15, an injury Sam says sent his older sibling on a "downward spiral" that would eventually take him five years later.

Sam – a hooker, like his brother – plays every game in memory of Jack, the popular Palm Beach ferry worker who took his own life in February, 2015.

His parents Mark and Kimberley have been vocal advocates of mental health awareness through Headspace and R U OK and two games into his own NRL career, Sam is doing the same, aware a rugby league profile can make a difference with the most difficult of conversations.

"I speak about it when people ask me," Verrills begins.

"People kind of come up to me and feel uncomfortable asking me, but I will speak about it because my brother was a great guy. I thought he loved his life but one silly error …"

Sam Verrills in action against Penrith.
Sam Verrills in action against Penrith. ©NRL Photos

Last week the NRL launched its latest State of Mind campaign, with the message 'don't stay on the sideline of mental health'.

It's as important as ever given more than 3,000 Australians died by suicide in 2017, an average of eight people every day.

The Verrills were told on the same night Jack died in 2015, another two suicide attempts were made on the Northern Beaches.

"So at my brother’s funeral we actually had donations instead of bringing us flowers, we had heaps of flowers, it was awesome," Sam says.

"But instead of bringing us flowers we actually asked for a donation for Headspace. We know with youth suicide nowadays, it’s very important to raise awareness within our community, with how popular he is.

"Where we live, it happens quite a bit. It’s about raising awareness to try to stop it."

Sam still lives on the Beaches, commuting across to the Roosters' Moore Park HQ.

He and Jack both started out with the Avalon Bulldogs junior side. Sam was captaining Manly's Harold Matts team when his family was rocked by tragedy in 2015.

He smirks when asked why he's no longer in maroon and white.

Roosters rookie Sam Verrills.
Roosters rookie Sam Verrills. ©NRL Photos

"You’ll have to ask Manly that. I played two years of SG Ball and two years of Harold Matts [at the Sea Eagles], I was there for four or five years.

"It just didn’t work out at Manly… The Roosters approached me when I was 18 and had a nice conversation with my dad. I’m here now and I’m happy."

His family and a cohort of mates were on hand for his round six debut in Melbourne, the childhood dream that culminated in 10 minutes of a nail-biting grand final rematch.

A start in last week's loss to Penrith has followed since, while more opportunities beckon for the young hooker with Jake Friend sidelined through injury.

With him all the way are those initials on his wrist, and the older brother who should still be.

"He was a hooker as well, he was a bit crazy out on the footy field," Verrills says.

Roosters v Bulldogs - Round 14

"He wasn’t like me, he would go 100 per cent.

"I watched a lot of footy of his, he actually broke his back once when he was 15. That really affected him and ever since then it was sort of a downward spiral.

"That’s how crazy he went on the footy field, to the extent he broke his back.

"He knows how important footy was to me, he loved the fact that I played footy and wanted to make it a career. He would have been very happy with how far I have come now."

The 2019 Ken Stephen Medal is proudly supported by wealth, property and well-being consultancy, One Solutions.

Readers who need support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyond blue on 1300 22 4636.

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