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Wolves star urges men to offload to friends and family

Warrington Wolves winger Matty Russell has revealed the important role his team-mates and friends outside Rugby League play in helping him enjoy good mental health.

Matty spoke out as part of his support for Offload, the men’s mental fitness and wellbeing project being run by Rugby League Cares in partnership with the Wolves Charitable Foundation.

The 23-year-old Scotland international, who joined the club in 2014 after a year in the NRL with Gold Coast Titans, said his time Down Under had highlighted the value of friends and family.

“I had a great time in Australia but don’t mind admitting that it was tough at times,” said Matty.

“I went to Queensland with the best of intention but it didn’t quite work out. While I was there I didn’t quite make the connection with anyone I felt I was comfortable with talking about how I felt at the time.

“I lost a family member while I was there and got really down about my life: it was only when I came back and saw my family and friends again that I realised I would probably be better off staying in the UK.”

Like everyone in every walk of life, professional Rugby League players have good days and bad days at work: however unlike most people, the upshot of a player having a ‘bad day at the office’ can leave thousands of people feeling down.

“Players face a lot of pressure to perform week in, week out and it can be hard to switch off,” said Matty.  “Some people think it’s a nine-to-five job but it’s anything but: you always get sleepless nights and can spend your day off thinking about the game you’ve just played or the one coming up.

“When you start feeling down it’s important to offload to other people. At the club I tend to turn to senior players who have been there and done that.

“There’s always someone who has experienced a lot of the things you are going through and it really helps to talk to them about it and how they overcame their own adversity.

“Family and friends are also important. I think it’s essential to enjoy a good social life away from rugby because you need to be able to not ‘talk shop’.

“I have been with lads who have been really down and I know how much it means to them when you call them up and have a laugh on the phone.

“It’s always feels good to help pick your mates up – and it’s just as good to have your mates pick you up.

“That’s one of the lessons I think people will take from being involved in Offload. It’s a great project and I hope as many of our fans as possible will get involved.”

Offload is a Big Lottery-funded pilot project from Rugby League Cares that is being delivered in partnership with the charitable club foundations at Warrington, Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils.

Current and former players will be involved in the 10-week long courses that will also feature input from health professionals and agencies such as State of Mind, Oddballs and Andy’s Man Club.

Participants, who must be at last 16 years of age, will develop coping strategies that empower them to tackle challenging situations and recognise when people close to them may need their support. 

For more information on Offload at Salford please call the Salford Red Devils Foundation on 0161 786 1591 or 07538 042666 or visit www.salfordreddevilsfoundation.co.uk

Full details of Offload at Warrington Wolves call James Howes on 01925 248894 or visit www.wolvesfoundation.com

Offload sessions in Widnes take place every Tuesday evening 6.30pm til 8.00pm at Halton Stadium. For more information call 0151 495 2250 (option 4) or email adamd@widnesvikings.co.uk

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