Former Warriors prop Epalahame Lauaki has opened up for the first time, talking to 1 NEWS about his battle with depression while playing over in the United Kingdom in the Super League competition.
Lauaki, 33, retired this year, he said his move back to New Zealand and the support from his family helped him deal with his inner demons off the field.
"In my case my wife and two boys were really good to me and I didn't see that," said Lauaki.
"All I seen was myself and I was being selfish. Just wanted things to happen quickly with my injury and I didn't know what I was going through at the time (depression), I didn't know what it was.
"The best decision for me was walking away from the contract and bringing my family home."
After dealing with injuries and off-filed issues, Lauaki said he was heading down a bad path.
"I was in a really dark place, I don't think I would be here now speaking so yeah," said Lauaki.
"When I walked away from my contract they (family) didn't care about anything. First and foremost they cared about my life and how I was going to handle it."
Lauaki lost his brother former All Black Sione Lauaki earlier this year, a topic he said was too difficult to talk about.
"I can't thank my family enough for their support they have given me and I look at it now as a lesson I have learned."
He said he had no regrets walking away from a Super League contract and said his health was the most important thing to get right.
"At the time it was my best time in footy playing at Wigan, I didn't look at it as how much money I was going to lose - it was more about just finding myself and being happy."
Lauaki has started a new career in the mental health sector, mentoring young men for social service provider Vaka Tautua.
Lauaki advised people dealing with depression to reach out to family and close friends, and that it is okay to ask for help.
"Speaking to your loved ones and friends - it can be done, you can turn your life around. There are opportunities and there are people out there that are willing to help."
Lauaki played 69 NRL matches for the Warriors and played two Tests for the Kiwis.
Where can I get support and help?
Need to talk? 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email email@example.com
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Healthline 0800 611 116
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 or www.depression.org.nz
The Lowdown: A website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. www.thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626
SPARX.org.nz Online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 for support related to sexual orientation or gender identity
Cameron Smith's brains are the real key to his record NRL longevity and durability, according to rugby league conditioning guru Alex Corvo.
The Melbourne skipper will match Brisbane great Darren Lockyer for most NRL matches played when he runs out for his 355th game against Canberra at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Just as impressive, the 34-year-old has only ever missed 11 games through injury and Corvo, who was head of strength and conditioning at the Storm for 11 of Smith's 16 seasons, says the Test hooker's smarts are key to his secret.
"He's probably the smartest footballer that's played the game," said Corvo, who left Melbourne for the Broncos at the end of 2013.
"Because he's so capable in the skill area and in the way he analyses and reads the game it allows him to cope better physically.
"He's very good at conserving energy at the right times.
"He puts himself in the right position to make sure that he has the upper hand in most collisions so he's one of the best defenders and wrestlers in the game."
Although an excellent trainer, in terms of strength and speed Corvo said Smith wouldn't be on radar of the best at the Storm let alone across the NRL.
But Corvo said those "easy measures" didn't paint a true picture of his value.
"If you measure athletes on resilience and standards continually met then he's the ultimate athlete," he said.
"He's an amazingly resilient athlete, right up there with the best athletes in any sport."
Corvo pointed out that Smith not only played 80 minutes of most games but regularly topped the tackle count.
"People neglect the fact that he plays in the middle of the field where he's probably averaging 40-odd tackles a game against guys who are usually 20-plus kilos heavier and he doesn't shirk any of that work."
Corvo also worked with Lockyer with the Australian team and said they shared traits of professionalism and commitment.
"You don't play as much football as those two without meticulous preparation," he said.
If rugby league wasn't Smith's first love, Corvo said he could have been an AFL star and likened him to now retired Hawthorn greats Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell.
"There are players like him in the AFL - a Luke Hodge or Sam Mitchell who aren't super-gifted athletes but have had tremendous careers because of their ability and skills.
"I'd imagine if Cameron was an AFL player he'd be a ball winner because he's so clever in the sport he plays now."