If you are a Queensland forward, it seems it is in fashion this season to be sporting a mullet for a good cause - and Darryn Schonig's is up with the best of them.
Melbourne Storm forward Schonig is giving them both a run for their money with his hairdo and has also signed up for Mullets for Mental Health.
Schonig raised so much money for a cause he strongly believes in on his first day; he had to reset his fundraising goal from $1000 to $10,000 and is well on target to smash that as well.
“It was pretty surprising, I went in there and just put in $1000 (as my goal), ‘cause I wasn’t too sure how people would react to it, but people have just really surprised me and dipped into their pockets and donated a lot," Schonig said.
“One of our major sponsors Red Zed donated $5000 in one go, so it was awesome and lots of people who I have never met before, though just sharing the page, have been donating pretty consistently over the last few days.
“I had to change it to $10,000 because we reached $1000 in a day.
“I think mental health is extremely important, everywhere in life; as a young footballer I lost a couple of mates to mental illness over the years.*
“I just so happened to be growing a mullet in the last nine months and I saw Josh Papalii was doing it and I thought it was a great cause and I have a mullet already, so it should be pretty easy to get on board with it.”
On the football field, Schonig has had to reset his rugby league goals this year after already achieving a major career milestone when he made his NRL debut in Round 9 against the Canberra Raiders this year.
While it was a dream come true, it all came in a rush on game night; so much so, his mum nearly missed watching it after deciding to turn in early that evening, having no idea her son was a chance to play.
“It was pretty crazy, it was a pretty surreal moment, I still remember it now, I was holding the pads as 18th man and I looked over to my left and Tom Eisenhuth was kind of grabbing at his hamstring and I saw him go to run again and the physio shake his head and he did the ‘he’s no good look’ and it kind of hit me at once, I was like ‘Eiso’s playing backrow... they are going to need a forward’,” Schonig said.
“And then, Aaron Bellamy (assistant coach) walked up to me and he was ‘oh mate, just when you finish holding that pad, I need to talk to you’ and I kind of knew what was going on, so I finished holding the pad and he was like ‘you are going to be playing tonight, this is your game’.
“It all happened pretty fast and I ended up getting on in the second half.
“I probably ran myself tired (before I got onto the field), just pacing up and down the sideline because I had so much nervous energy and it was pretty crazy how it worked out.
“As we were running to the sheds before the start of the game, I called out to BP, Brian Phelan, our welfare manager and I said to him, ‘mate, can you call me mum, and tell her I am debuting, and can you call my best mate Colin Wilkie, ‘cause he used to be a player here about 10 years ago, can you give both of them a call and tell them to chuck the tele on?’
“Because mum didn’t have the volume on, on the TV, so she didn’t hear the late news, so she just watched the warm-up and then she went to bed.
“But BP called her, and she was just about to go to sleep, so she had to run downstairs and chuck the tele on.
“I am kind of glad it happened how it did, because the week leading up to it, I would have been really nervous, I would have been pretty on edge, but since it happened like that, I didn’t really have a chance to over think it, or stress about it.”
Schonig’s debut is one of four this year from his fellow Intrust Super Cup players at the Storm; a special achievement he has been able to savour with some good mates.
“There’s been a lot of boys debut, we had Cooper Johns, another team mate from Falcons, I was super happy to see him debut; Isaac Lumelume debuted just two weeks ago, I think we have used the majority of our squad and we have had a crazy amount of injuries, especially in the ruck.
“It has been a pretty good year, debut-wise … we also had Lewi (Chris Lewis).
“It’s pretty awesome. In the game against Manly, it was me and Lewi and Nicho (Hynes) all on the bench and it’s pretty crazy that 12 months before that, we were all playing for the Falcons together and living in the same house.
“We were able to get all three of us on the bench again last weekend, it is pretty crazy to think 12 months apart, we are all playing NRL together.”
The big forward has gone on to play three more games since then and has been named on the bench for this weekend’s match against North Queensland Cowboys.
Having achieved the goals he set himself at the start of the season, the 2019 XXXX Queensland Residents representative now has his sights set on working towards playing finals football with the club.
“I made a goal this year to debut and play a few games, so I am absolutely over the moon that this is something that has been able to work out with the year the way it is, I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Schonig said.
“I really reckon setting goals is a really big part of playing footy, you have something to work towards; do it in increments and work your way to your goal.
“(My next focus is) just get as many games as I can, but the next goal I would really like to do is play finals footy, that’s the next goal, I would love to be able to tick that off and ultimately, being able to win a comp; but you know, you have to play finals footy first, winning a comp is definitely there.”
This year has been the result of years of hard work for Schonig who first picked up a footy playing as a youngster in Cooktown, before developing his skills through the grades when he moved to Cairns.
“I grew up in a place called Cooktown, we had a bit of a rugby league comp up there, but we would play the same team every week because there wasn’t quite enough players to field two teams, so I wouldn’t say that I started playing footy properly until I was about 12, when I moved to Cairns and played with Edmonton Storm,” Schonig said.
“I was only really doing it because my mates were doing it, but when I was about 14, 15, I started to think I would really like to play NRL and I was pretty lucky I started showing a little bit of talent when I was 16, I got a little bit better.
“I went down to Kirwan State High School and I actually played with (current Storm team mate) Brandon Smith at the Kirwan Bears.
“I then went down to Roosters, I played a bit of 20s there, came to Cowboys 20s and I didn’t really kick on from 20s in the first year, so I went back to me home of Cairns where mum and dad lived and I played for Northern Pride for two years and I loved my time there.
Darryn Schonig - Absolute weapon
"Cairns is an awesome place and I always try to get back up whenever I can, and then, I was just really lucky how I came to Falcons.
“Eric Smith (2019 coach) was an old Cairns boy and he got onto me via some mutual mates up in Cairns and he offered my a pre-season trial at Storm and a contract at Falcons, and I was ‘okay’.... I haven’t really had many bites from any other sides, so thought that was the next best thing.
“So I went down for pre-season and I went back and played for the Falcons for the year, but I was really lucky, we had a really good side, we went undefeated for so long and a few of us boys got picked up and here I am now.”
Now Schonig is back on the Sunshine Coast, living life in the Storm’s ‘NRL bubble’ and while he, like all of his team mates have expressed their concern for the people back in the Storm’s home state – “I know they are doing it tough down there in Victoria and I hope they are staying safe” – the club is making the most of the situation.
“I really think us (staying together on the Sunshine Coast) and being as close as we are and always being in everyone’s pocket has really worked well for us,” Schonig said.
“When I think of Storm, I just think of one big family, it’s kind of like we have all the staff, we have all the players and everyone is mates here, it’s like extended family, that’s how I view it.
“So, I really do think that this resort is not hindering us, it’s definitely an advantage because we are together so much and getting along so well we are building a really good culture.
“(And) no one is annoying each other too much.”
*Help is available 24/7 for anyone who has mental health issues by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14