‘There’s no

New Zealand rugby play­ers re­veal their bat­tles with men­tal health as the union takes a stand against ‘sober­ing sta­tis­tics’ that show one in five Ki­wis suf­fer each year. By Mad­di­son North­cott.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

UP-AND-COM­ING rugby player Ryan Coxon kept his head down and silently bat­tled through tough times.

Crip­pled by a rut of work­ing, train­ing and sleep­ing, he pushed him­self to break­ing point and nearly dozed off be­hind the wheel. He stopped talk­ing to his friends, didn’t care about food or train­ing and was op­er­at­ing on auto-pi­lot be­cause he was too ashamed to ask for help.

‘‘I felt weak, and I’m sup­posed to be a big strong man. I didn’t want peo­ple to think less of me,’’ the Waikato-born farmer and New Zealand Un­der 20’s prop said.

‘‘I felt like I was head­ing into a de­pres­sion. I was just sad about ev­ery­thing; I wasn’t my­self. I was sad and droopy all day ev­ery day. I would wake up and not wanna go to train­ing; I’d just want to go back to sleep.’’

Coxan and New Zealand Rugby want that stigma to be lifted. NZR have stepped up their cam­paign for men­tal health af­ter launch­ing the head­first.co.nz web­site ear­lier this year, of­fer­ing play­ers, par­ents, coaches, ref­er­ees, vol­un­teers and fans a way of get­ting in­for­ma­tion about men­tal ill­ness.

Along­side An­gus Ta’avao, Ryan Ton­gia, Dan Bow­den and

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