NRL great Sam Thaiday is widely known for being a larrikin during his career – and yet his penchant for telling a joke comes from a dark place.
“I hid behind humor and that funny guy because there was pain in there and that was my way of getting that pain out,” said Thaiday Wide Sports World.
Following the 32-Test quest for self-discovery, he visited a therapist in February in an attempt to deal with “waves of emotions” and feelings of “inadequacy” after football.
Shortly after the visit he wrote a poem entitled The Boy On The Wall and decided to share his experiences of his struggles in the hope of giving others “a teaspoon of courage” to address their own feelings.
The 16-year-old Broncos star has created a four-part podcast series called ‘We Are Human’ that explores Thaiday’s weaknesses as a teenager, player and father, and openly discusses his struggles with an identity throughout his teens that led to thoughts of suicide. at the age of 15.
“One day I came home from school and told my mum that I was going to the park to kick the football around,” he said.
“I rode to this local dam near where we lived and sat on the dam wall, I didn’t care if I fell off or jumped. Who would even worried, who comes looking for me sitting there motionless in an empty mind space.
“I came then, riding my bike home as fast as I could and washing my face with the hose downstairs and going upstairs like nothing had happened. Mum and dad just thought I was kicked the football in the park and I’d come home for lunch. “
The Maroons major said most of his “concerns” stemmed from a school-based learning problem and teachers who constantly compared him to his “smart” older brother. He said he didn’t know what to do with his life when he was considering leaving school to do an apprenticeship because he felt he was “not smart enough”.
“I was taken out of class to a different classroom to study, on my own,” Thaiday said.
“He was not diagnosed, I had some dyslexia, my strengths were not reading and writing. Back then I aspired to be like my older brother who I really looked at and was smart.
“Sometimes just the slightest comment from the teachers saying ‘you’re nothing like your brother, your brother behaves well in class’ those little things may not seem much to me people but it weighs on you as a young child. “
Thaiday revealed that he felt confused over his mixed-race heritage, saying he was “too black to be white and too white to be black. ”
“I have a father who comes from the deep-cut Torres Strait Islander and I have a mother from Western Australia who comes from a hard farming background,” said Thaiday. “I was unsure what type of mold I wanted to fit in. I’ve realized now that all I have to be is the best version of me.”
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The league veteran and Nine commentator also discussed the death of his close friend Joe Clarke to commit suicide in 2007.
His former Broncos teammate, a Kiwi Junior representative, was a popular figure at the club and was described as a happy young man living the dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Thaiday moved into a Broncos split house with Clarke in 2004 and the two of them got a flat together 12 months later. Clarke had a chance at the Cowboys but didn’t play NRL in Townsville, moving back to Brisbane to play the Queensland Cup.
“I spoke to him the night he committed suicide and I wasn’t playing football at the time and I told him to come around I was sitting at home with my brother watching the football on the couch,” Thaiday recalls .
“I invited him around and tried to think back to the conversation we had on the phone. I tried to think if he said anything different or sounded different but I can’t remember any moment in that conversation where ‘ There were no red flags. I wish I had the courage I now have to ask harder questions and have difficult conversations. “
Despite creating a successful career after football, the 29-game Origin champion still feels he is “trying to find what I am without football.”
“I’ve been a footballer 16 years of my life even more playing junior football. It’s become your identity it becomes a safe space for you,” Thaiday said.
“And now I don’t have that to fall back on. I don’t have that outlet to drop my aggression. Even the friendship of a man.”
While he admits he is “lucky” to be in his current job, the former league star cannot shake feelings of self-doubt into every aspect of his life.
“I’ll go to a game now and I know I have to talk to the coach and the captain and I’ll be sitting there in my car questioning myself: ‘Can I do this?’ ‘I can’t ask a serious question.’
“I still question myself every day If I’m a good dad. I was comforted in rugby league, without having that anymore I had to sit by myself and tackle things which I needed to address. “
The ‘We Are Human’ podcast is available on Apple or Spotify podcasts as part of mental health month. It launches today.
Click here to listen to the We Are Human podcast.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.