Last week, the Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen revealed that the pressures and stresses of captaining his side engulfed by the ASADA investigation, prevented him from having a third child. He also raised the issue of his younger team mates who have not been coping mentally well with all the speculation.
Firstly I'd like to say thank you to Paul for raising this very pertinent issue. ASADA's investigation has been anything but private and ever since that infamous press conference last year, most athlete's in the country have been tarred with the same brush, while it would appear a fraction of them may be investigated for possible performance enhancing infringements.
But all along, no one has given much thought or care for the players' mental state. These players even do promotions for the NRL about mental health, especially among men, yet it seems no one has bothered to consider the mental health of these men.
Gallen's comments have seen people criticise the NRL for not acting soon enough on this issue. I'm not convinced that criticism is just. Some may ask, "isn't it the role of the Rugby League Players Association to help look after the players off-field welfare, where possible?"
The RLPA state that they "offer a framework of support services relevant to the needs of members over and above the NRL Administration, NRL Club and Player Agent influence."
I find it hard to believe that not one player at the Cronulla Sharks isn't a member of the RLPA. So I asked the RLPA on Twitter, "What percentage of professional Rugby League players in Australia are affiliated with you (the RLPA)?"
The response was a very resounding "All the NRL players."
So why have players not been getting assistance to help deal with the off-field dramas stemming from the ASADA investigation? Is it because players aren't asking for help? Should the RLPA actively contact players and clubs just to check up on them?
Either way, to me it doesn't appear to be an issue for the NRL, given that the RLPA are over and above the NRL as far as providing support services for players is concerned.
The RLPA can't make ASADA go away, but at least they can help players deal with the off-field pressures that have been heaped upon them via the investigation and the shoddy attempts at journalism by some people in the media, looking for a big scoop to further self-inflate their ego's.
These Rugby League players are humans after all.
* Note: the views contained above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of LeagueUnlimited.com.