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The Vic Of It – Not Just A Game

Every single rugby league fan has heard it, every single sport fan has heard it. “It’s just a game”. Albeit often said with innocence and sometimes said in a helpful manner, it’s a dismissive phrase.

It indicates that someone shouldn’t really be upset that their team lost. They shouldn’t really be upset that their favourite player is injured. They shouldn’t really be upset that a player has left their favourite team. There comes a time where those simple 4 words can be damaging. 

Try telling that to the hundreds of players preparing to lace on their boots this week. Try telling that to the players who can merely wish they were preparing to lace on their boots this week. 

I don’t like the notion that footy players “go to war” but there is no denying that they do put their bodies on the line and put their own safety essentially at risk to entertain us.

We’ve seen too many players who have unfortunately had their careers cut short and lives altered forever due to injuries. But we’ve also seen too many players damaged through the mental demise of life.

A few weeks ago we heard reports that Angus Crichton would be missing a chunk of the 2023 season due to personal matters.

Quickly we were hearing differing rumours around his mental health – a matter which should never be touched on by anyone other than the person themselves or a representative for them.

A few nights ago, some of our questions were answered by Charlie Crichton, Angus’ father.

“I can confirm today that Angus is under appropriate professional support and treatment for medically diagnosed bipolar disorder which he has been dealing with for some time.”

Rather than delving too much further into the matter, I am going to respect Angus’ privacy. I wish him all of the best in his recovery and hope that we can see him back on the field some time as long as his body and mind allow it. He has the entire rugby league community behind him.

I do want to touch on the way in which the mental health of athletes is perceived by many however.

Unfortunately, with any post detailing that an athlete has taken time away from their sport to focus on themselves and their mental well being you’ll find the comments that unfortunately have become all too familiar. Guaranteed you’ll find someone mentioning their salary as if you can’t possibly suffer from mental illness if you earn a certain amount of money.

What is that cut off? How much money is enough money where you’re suddenly cured of any mental strain?

The black dog does not discriminate. The black dog does not care how many digits are on your paycheck. How many tries you’ve scored. Which team you play for. How many fans had you in their anytime multi.\

The black dog simply does not care who you are.

We, as a society, need to protect everyone from the ramifications of mental illness rather than picking and choosing when to truly care.

Why is it that we send messages of condolences when a player leaves the game injured just as long as they weren’t in your multi?

Obviously it is an extreme example and by no means am I saying that everyone sends abusive messages cursing out a player who “cost” a fan money through gambling but if even one person does it then I say we’re failing. 

When did athletes become puppets for our entertainment instead of human beings?

It may be wishful thinking but I truly hope that one day we can hear the story of a player taking a break to focus on their mental health and have everyone applaud their bravery rather than anyone questioning their strength. They do not owe us any answers and don’t even owe us their presence on a rugby league field. 

Rugby league is not just a game. It is an escape from reality, a form of connection between friends and family and a simple source of entertainment after a difficult work week.

Rugby league is not just a game but it is just a game when it comes to the health and well being of the athletes dedicating their lives to a sport.

If you or someone you love is struggling please know there is help for you. You are not alone. It ain’t weak to speak. 

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636



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