'Those memories will never leave me' - how Warriors enforcer James Gavet turned life around for 'two beautiful children'

James Gavet is one of the form props of the NRL and has given the Warriors a physical edge that has been missing for some time.

With so much talent waiting to be unleashed in their illustrious backline, the pressure has never been greater on the Warriors forward pack to provide the necessary platform.

But you wouldn't know it with the way prop James Gavet has been performing since being called up from reserve grade to feature on the bench in round four.

In a lacklustre team performance against the Dragons, the 27-year-old stepped up and carried for 129 metres off 15 runs. Despite the 26-12 loss, coach Stephen Kearney knew he had a prop that could bend the line.

In fact, it was a barnstorming run and quick play-the-ball that set up the side's first try to Issac Luke, which really caught the coach's eye.

And the trend continued as Gavet carried for more than 100 metres in their last two wins - against the Titans and Eels - while he has contributed at least 20 tackles in each game.

If it's my job to get battered and bruised so that they [the backs] can be on the posters then that's all good - Warriors prop James Gavet

"If it's my job to get battered and bruised so that they [the backs] can be on the posters then that's all good," Gavet said.

So why, after failing to cement a spot at the Bulldogs, Tigers and Broncos, is he now starting to look like one of the form props in the NRL? Let's also not forget that he was also once signed to the Warriors' NRL squad under Ivan Cleary.

The answer, he says, lies in the struggles he has overcome since he made the first of three attempts to take his own life.

Unlike many troubled players who are overwhelmed by the pressures of the NRL, his struggles began way back in high school.

A promising rugby union flanker, Gavet was named co-captain of the Kelston Boys' 1st XV and was considered the next rising star in a long-standing production line of All Blacks including Mils Muliaina, Sam Tuitupou and the late Sione Lauaki.

With that kind of reputation came a ton of expectation. So when he led the 1st XV side that missed the Auckland 1A semifinals for the first time in over 20 years, he was copping it from everywhere.

"Everyone was looking at me," said Gavet.

"[Kelston] old boys would be coming up to me and be like 'hey what's wrong with you guys?'"

That coincided with the breakdown of a relationship, which caused him to experiment with alcohol for the first time. It was a lethal mixture that almost cost him his life.

Those memories will never leave me or the people that were there. A few of those [attempts to take his life] were really close. - Warriors prop James Gavet

"Those memories will never leave me or the people that were there," he said. "A few of those [attempts to take his life] were really close," he said.

"Footy wasn't going well, relationships weren't going well. Everything just wasn't on song."

The light at the end of the tunnel was in sight but it took years and a number of harsh lessons before he could reach it.

Along with a horrid run of injuries, he admits alcohol also ruined opportunities at previous NRL clubs, which is why the Warriors were extremely cautious when they took him back in 2016.

Rugby League NRL - Brisbane Broncos v  New Zealand Warriors , Suncorp Stadium , Brisbane Australia -   11 March 2016
Warriors' James Gavet in action
Jason O'Brien / www.photosport.nz
Warriors prop James Gavet. Source: Photosport

Having just left the Broncos where Kearney had worked with him as the assistant coach, Gavet and his father sat down with then-Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden to assure him that the well-documented drinking problems were in the past.

The club provided counselling through mental well-being group LeVa and Gavet also credits the help from friends and family for changing his perspective on life.

Mentally he is in the best shape in years and last year he welcomed the birth of his second child.

"I look back at it now with two beautiful children and footy is going well, I'm getting paid decent and my body is holding up well," Gavet said.

"I wouldn't get to where I am now if any of those attempts were successful."

'This is our family'

He sees similarities in the journey Kieran Foran has undertaken to get back to the NRL after being hospitalised by an attempt to take his own life last year.

James Gavet. Vodafone Warriors v Gold Coast Titans, Round 5 of the 2017 NRL Rugby League Premiership season at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. 2 April 2017. Copyright photo: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
Warriors prop James Gavet. Source: Photosport

"When he first arrived at the club [in October] he was really quiet," said Gavet.

"My locker isn't far from his and I wasn't sure whether to approach him or not. We just let him be because we knew he was dealing with some stuff. It's funny because I was that guy last year."

The cut-throat nature of the NRL hardly provides the comfort you would hope to find when dealing with such issues but Gavet says a new team culture introduced by Kearney has helped while the results are now starting to show on the field.

"He [Kearney] just says 'don't worry about whatever's happening out there, this is our family," added Gavet.

"There's times on the field where you kind of feel like your mate has your back but then you're like 'oh I don't know. I don't really know if he does but that's all changed now."

One of four Warriors props without a contract for next season, Gavet is attracting attention from Australian clubs once again but would prefer stick with the Mt Smart club to be closer to family.

And if his recent form is anything to go by, the feeling should be mutual.

"I'd love to stay but that's all out of my hands."

Where can I get support and help from?

Below is a list of some of the services available which offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.

Lifeline 24/7 – 0800 543 354

Kidsline (aimed at children up to 18 years of age, available 24/7) – 0800 54 37 54

Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) - 0800 111 757

Healthline - 0800 611 116

Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)

Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) - 0800 942 8787

www.depression.org.nz - includes The Journal online help service

www.thelowdown.co.nz - visit the website, email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between 12 noon and 12 midnight).