NRL legend shares battle
From the Burnett to the big stage
A FORMER Cherbourg resident and NRL legend has opened up about his bout of depression and he wants others to be brave enough to share as well.
Willie Tonga retired from professional sport more than a year ago, which meant starting a new life away from the sport he loves. The transition proved a struggle to come to terms with.
“It has never gotten to the point where I’m thinking of suicide, but it does put me in dark places,” he said.
“The thing is, I am only starting to become comfortable talking about it whereas before I would come home and sit in a dark room and it would just be myself and my thoughts.”
Tonga, who played in several NRL teams as well representing his state and country, said having his time over, he would’ve placed more of a priority on life after football.
“I thought I was invincible and rugby league was going to last forever,” Tonga said.
“When you’re in your early 20s, life after football is the furthest thing from your mind.
“There are welfare officers who will help, but ultimately it is your decision whether you want to start a course or whether you just want to go home and play Xbox and sit in front of the TV.
“Sadly, I chose the second option.”
Since retiring from professional sport, Tonga is now in an office environment and he said the transition was the hardest thing he has had to face.
The former State of Origin star said his mental anguish was obvious to see for his new office colleagues.
“I was a couple of weeks into the new job and the lady that sits next to me, she came over and sat down and said ‘Will, are you okay?’,” he said.
Tonga stressed the importance of asking the question if you think someone is struggling.
Tonga will play for the Cherbourg Legends at the
Legends of League game on February 9 and he is excited to give back to the town that he owes so much to.
Anyone experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide can call Lifeline 13 11 14.
SPEAKING OUT: Former Cherbourg resident and NRL legend Willie Tonga has opened up about his bout of depression.