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Munster Opens Up

By Peter Badel
The Sunday Mail


The Queensland Origin pivot also says he sought professional help for his battle with alcohol, admitting he owes his NRL career to ongoing treatment with Melbourne Storm's psychologist.
The rich five-year contract Munster inked with Melbourne a fortnight ago was a sweet postscript to the most turbulent, testing and emotionally-draining season of his NRL career.
His 2018 campaign began with stern warnings from Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and Kangaroos mentor Mal Meninga after he was briefly sent home for an alcohol-related incident during Australia's World Cup campaign last December.

It ended with more misery, with Munster sin-binned twice in Melbourne's grand-final loss to the Roosters, the second time for kicking rival Joseph Manu in the ultimate big-game brain explosion.
Then, just days after his grand-final nightmare, Munster learned his former Central Capras teammate Reggie Saunders had taken his life, prompting him to stand down from Australia's Tests against New Zealand and Tonga.
"I've really learnt who my true friends and family were over the past year," Munster told The Sunday Mail. "I have found out who cares for me ... and who I can trust."



MUNSTER felt the toxic scourge of social media in the wake of Melbourne's 21-6 grand-final defeat. He was pilloried by critics and copped personal threats from members of the public after submitting one of the worst displays of his career in the 2018 NRL decider. For some weeks, Munster was rattled.
"I've had fans and members of the general public abusing me and just giving it to me," Munster said.
"I was happy to cop some of it but some other stuff I copped privately went a bit too far.
"When you are going well, you have a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon, but it's interesting to see who your friends are when your back is against the wall.
"Unfortunately, that's the world we live in these days with social media."



AS he reflects on his grand-final horror show two months later, Munster still can't believe he lashed out at Roosters centre Manu. He is adamant he will never put himself in that position again.
"I won't hide from what happened," he says. "It was just embarrassing and to be honest, it was a grub act what I did.

"I still find it hard to explain. That grand final was like a dream that turned into a nightmare.
"To kick someone is ridiculous. I honestly can't explain it properly. It's something I've never done before in my career and I won't do it again.
"I guess there was a lot of frustration that built up on the night with the way we played and all I could do was apologise for my actions.

'It's one thing to talk, but I need to show my remorse through my actions and I'll be doing that next year.
"All I can do is get the respect of the football community and play some good football. I can't wait for round one again to get the monkey off my back.
"I will be a fair player next year."




AS the dust settled on Melbourne's grand-final loss, Munster woke to shattering news. Saunders, with whom he played in Rockhampton, had died suddenly. He was in his late 20s.
Munster was due to play for Australia but was given time off by Meninga and travelled overseas to clear his head.

It is the second footballing mate Munster has lost to suicide in just three years.
"I was absolutely heartbroken," the Maroons ace says.
"It's been tough to deal with.
"I played footy with Reggie at the Capras and he was always a happy guy and the life of the party. I guess you never know what is happening behind closed doors.

"It really upsets me that he couldn't talk to anyone about what he was going through. I remember playing with a guy called Grant Giess at Easts Tigers and he committed suicide as well. I was shattered by that. It (suicide) just hurts so many people, particularly the families.

"I played with Reggie for two years in Rockhampton. I met him when I was 18. I was the youngest kid in the Capras team and Reggie decided to take me under his wing. He was always there looking after me and making sure I was okay. He was like a brother to me. The moment I found out was just shattering. I still can't believe he isn't around.

"Unfortunately, his family have to live with it forever and ask why?
"Suicide is something that is going on in our game and we somehow need to find a way to get players and men speaking out.
"We need to minimise suicide. It's getting ridiculous that so many people feel they need to take their own life."




MUNSTER has confronted his own demons. For the past year, he has been having ongoing counselling to help him deal with his alcohol abuse and the pressures of the NRL.

For all his talent, it is easy to forget Munster has just turned 24 and is growing up in the public eye. He says Melbourne psychologist Jacqui Louder has saved his career.

"Jacqui is the unsung hero at the Storm," he says. "I spoke to her only a few times the year before, I wasn't really open to talking to a psychologist. I didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone, really.
"But then things went pear-shaped (at the World Cup) and I needed to let some stuff out.
"Alcohol had become an issue. It was an outlet and it was a worry that I felt a lot better when I was drinking.

"But I can't thank her enough for what she has done. She hates getting accolades and she will hate me mentioning her, but she needs to be given credit for the way she has turned my career around at the Storm.

"Even recently, I bought my first home and she opened up her home for me to store my stuff while I was moving house.
"That's the type of person Jacqui is ... I owe her my career, that's the truth."



FOLLOWING the retirement of Billy Slater, Munster admits he is keen to replace him as Melbourne fullback _ even if it could cost him his Queensland No.6 jumper.

"Fullback has always been my favourite spot, it's all I wanted to do," he says. "I didn't expect myself to adapt so easily to the five-eighth role.
"It's a discussion that me and 'Bellyache' (coach Bellamy) have had and what is best for the team.
"My ambition is to wear the Storm No.1 jumper and if means I lose the Queensland and Australian five-eighth jumpers, well that's something I have to face up to.
"Bellyache hasn't made up his mind yet. We're keeping a few things under wraps so people don't know our plans yet.

"But if playing fullback means I don't get picked as Queensland five-eighth, I'll understand. I'm not a selfish player. If I don't make the Maroons, I'd still be cheering them on ... that's what us Queenslanders are like."

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.