Boyd a ray of light to any troubled young soul
RUGBY LEAGUE: I'm not convinced headlines such as "Darius the great” and "Boyd wonder” are appropriate, but in three decades covering the NRL I have not witnessed a more dramatic transformation in a player than Darius Boyd.
It was in that same Broncos boardroom where Boyd was last week unveiled as the Broncos' 10th club captain that I first met him, back in 2005. With other members of the Palm Beach Currumbin open schoolboys' team, he was there to celebrate winning the Broncos Coca-Cola Challenge trophy.
Boyd, though, was somewhat different to the others - he had already signed with the Broncos and was set to give schoolies the flick and train full-time with the NRL squad. It was heady stuff for one so young.
History tells us that in his first year out of school Darius Boyd won an NRL premiership. He never played a lower-grade game that year and has not in the ensuing 12 seasons.
I recall that that day, he was quite talkative and personable - considering he was in what must have been a daunting environment. But it wasn't long before that bubbly young bloke soon became reclusive, difficult to work with and not pleasant company.
Part of my role with the Broncos was media training for the players, and while the likes of Shane Webcke, Sam Thaiday, Ben Ikin and Michael Ennis grabbed the opportunity to learn what they could - and have since reaped the benefits - Boyd wanted nothing to do with that "crap”.
He bolted from the Broncos stable two seasons later and - as anyone who has followed the game closely would attest - his attitude degenerated. From once being merely difficult, words like rude and disrespectful best described his behaviour.
Darius Boyd was a champion footy player, but not a likeable person. And, as has been subsequently revealed, he wasn't too keen on himself either.
The transformation kicked in when he realised he had serious issues. It was around the same time his good friend Alex McKinnon became a quadriplegic. Boyd sought professional help and - again - the rest is history.
To see him sitting in the Broncos boardroom last week, flanked by two of the major powerbrokers in the game and with tears of emotion welling, should convey a ray of light to any troubled young soul. While the road ahead may seem too tough to travel, one precise turn can make all the difference.
Wayne Bennett, who has experienced some tough personal times himself of late, has no doubt had a massive influence on Boyd. He is the only coach he has had in a dozen seasons at the top and while always protective of the young man, has also shown extreme patience towards him.
But despite those turbulent times, they celebrated premierships together at the Broncos and the Dragons. And with those troubled waters smoothed, maybe a third title is just around the corner for the taciturn coach and his once acidic protege, now in an entirely new and fresh affiliation.