Mental health is the biggest challenge in our game.
With a significant number of players across the NRL suffering from mental health problems the issue can no longer be ignored.
“Mental health is such a massive challenge in society and the stats are getting worse,” Storm player welfare manager Brian Phelan said.
“It is a massive challenge in the game, players are certainly not immune to the mental health challenges that other young men their age in society face.
“A further alarming concern in recent years across the game is there has been five or six Under-20s players commit suicide.
“It is a massive challenge in society but there is good reason to say that elite athletes are even more vulnerable to the challenges of mental health because of the weight of expectation and pressure to perform.”
That is what led Melbourne Storm to adopt the Resilience Project.
The initial meeting came about by chance. Brian was watching his son play cricket for Melbourne Uni when he struck up a conversation with a man by the name of Hugh van Cuylenburg.
Hugh explained his organisation, the Resilience Project, and their work in teaching positive mental health strategies.
A couple of follow up coffees later and Hugh soon found himself in front of the entire Storm playing group before the 2015 season.
“The response was so well received the players asked us to do it with their partners as well. The feedback was just enourmous,” Brian said.
“At the end of season review the players give a lot of feedback about what worked and what didn’t work.
“The pretty compelling feedback was that players wanted more of it next year. We have done a lot more with Hugh this year to take it to another level.”
It did not stop there. Every staff member at the Club was soon part of the Resilience Project.
At the time Melbourne Storm was the first Australian sporting club to adopt the program.
The Resilience Project has now been to every single NRL club as well as a lot of AFL clubs.
Hugh has returned to the Club this year, completing half hour sessions with the players every six weeks.
He was up on the Sunshine Coast this week to speak with the Thunderbolts.
The sessions serve as a refresher for the players, a constant reminder that there is help available if they require it.
This type of work is not often recognised as the focus of the NRL world is primarily centered around on-field success.
However the Resilience Project brings to light that mental strength is just as, even not more important than an athlete’s physique.