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Sam Thaiday was often viewed as the funny guy during his illustrious NRL career: The loveable larrikin that lived life to the fullest and was adored by fans and teammates alike.
However, the Brisbane Broncos legend says his outward persona hid a dark secret that he's opened up about in candid detail.
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Now part of Channel Nine's rugby league commentary team, Thaiday told Wide World of Sports he sought the professional help of a therapist earlier in the year to help with deal with the challenges that life after footy presented him.
Thaiday has put together a four-part podcast series called 'We Are Human', which he hopes will help others battle similar issues to his own.
The Kangaroos and Queensland great says he used humour as a coping mechanism throughout his career, to help mask inner feelings of depression.
“I hid behind humour and being the funny guy because there was pain in there and that was my way of getting that pain out,” Thaiday said.
The rampaging former forward says learning difficulties and being compared to his "smart" older brother made his schooling days tough.
The 35-year-old - who retired at the end of 2018 after playing 308 games for Brisbane in the NRL - admitted to having suicidal thoughts during this time as a teenager.
“One day I came home from school and told my mum I was going to the park to kick the footy around,” Thaiday 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 if I jumped. Who would even care? Who come looking for me sitting there numb in a blank mind space.
“I then came to, rode my bike home as fast as I could and washed my face with the hose downstairs and went upstairs like nothing had happened. Mum and dad just thought I’d kicked the footy at the park and I’d come home for dinner.”
Thaiday says he struggled to find his own identity when he was younger, due to the fact he came from a mixed heritage background.
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“I’ve got a father who comes from the Torres Strait Islands who is deeply cultured and I have a mother from Western Australia who comes from a tough farming background,” Thaiday said.
“I was unsure what kind of mould I wanted to fit into. I’ve realised now all I have to be is the best version of me.”
Thaiday has found life after footy tough
The Brisbane legend's career in rugby league speaks for itself and he's certainly fallen on his feet with a sought-after commentary gig in retirement.
However, Thaiday admits that like many others before him, the transition to life after footy has been incredibly difficult.
“I’ve been a football player 16 years of my life - even more playing junior footy. It becomes your identity, it becomes your safe space,” Thaiday said.
“And now I don’t have that to fall back on, I don’t have that outlet to let go of my aggression. Even the manhood, camaraderie.
“I’ll go to a game now and I know I have to talk to the coach and captain and I will sit 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 father. I found my comfort in rugby league, not having that anymore I really had to sit with myself and address things I needed to address.”
Thaiday's 'We Are Human' podcast is now currently available to stream on Apple and Spotify as part of mental health month.
Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.
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