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.
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