Darius Boyd opens up: Retirement, mental health and family
WITH his mind and body finally at one, Darius Boyd has banished thoughts of premature retirement after fearing the worst before the 2018 NRL season even began.
In a candid interview, the Brisbane captain has revealed his pride at overcoming his mental health demons and how chronic hamstring issues left him in a state of despair during the off-season.
"Every different training session a different one would go so I was getting quite worried and I'm not getting any younger either," Boyd said on Fox Sports' League Life on Wednesday night.
"I am a perfectionist. I want to be at my best and give what I know I can give and there was a while there at training through the pre-season where I couldn't be me and I didn't want to sacrifice my best and then also sacrifice the team.
"So I'd be lying if I said those thoughts didn't go through my mind.
"But they (hamstrings) are really good at the moment. The last two games, in particular, I haven't really worried about them at all. They've been not a focus and I've been able to focus on the game, which I'm really happy about."
But what Boyd is most happy about is the way he has emerged from "the deepest, darkest times" that threatened to ruin his marriage - and life - just four years ago.
"I'm really proud of my achievements. Obviously a couple of years ago I was in a bit of dark place and had a few things I really needed to get on top of and put my hand up," the Queensland and Kangaroos star said.
"I'm such a happier person now. I do communicate a lot more freely and am just enjoying life and enjoying everything it has to offer."
Boyd revealed he has come so far that after nine years estranged, he is now supporting his mother in her own fight with depression.
"She had a few mental health concerns when I was about 15 years of age, but before that she was great," he said.
"She got me to all my football games, got me to school, good Christmas presents, all that type of stuff. So she did a great job until then.
"Just at that time I was too young to understand about mental health and what that means and I thought she didn't want to be a part of my life anymore and didn't want to look after me, and I never met my father and so it was a pretty small family dynamic I had anyway.
"It wasn't until I had my own battles with mental health that I could really understand what she was going through all those years ago that we reconnected that relationship and I suppose I can help her and be a support network now."
It wasn't until Boyd entered rehab in 2014 - after his wife Kayla walked out on him - that he even began to help himself.
"It was a pretty easy decision in the end," he said.
"I was seeing a therapist for probably two years prior in the midst of a rugby league schedule and trying to fit it in and being away and I felt like I had 10 things to talk about and one hour a month at best to talk about all these things.
"My wife was probably at the point where she put her hand up and said 'I can't do this anymore'.
"It wasn't a good relationship for her and she left.
"That was kind of the moment where I really realised and looked back and looked around and thought I didn't have much family, my wife was gone, I'd pushed my mates away and rugby league wasn't going that great either and it wasn't going to be there for me when I really needed someone to support me as well.
"So it was an easy decision then because I knew I needed to change. I needed to be different. I needed to be happy. I needed to enjoy life.
"I didn't know what was wrong. I just knew I needed to change and that was half the battle."
It was such a battle that while he suffered in silence, Boyd couldn't even bring himself to let Wayne Bennett in on his illness despite following the super coach from club to club.
The 30-year-old has played all 270 of his first-grade games under Bennett during two terms at Brisbane with stints at St George Illawarra and Newcastle in between.
"I just didn't open up," Boyd said.
"It was probably one of my flaws definitely that I didn't open up and my ability to open up and talk about my emotions and I really hid my life away for such a long time.
"I came into rugby league and just wanted to play the game because I love it, not because of the spotlight and attention and everything that comes with it.
"Obviously it is a part of the game and building the brand of rugby league as well and I kind of, I did probably hide my life away from Wayne and probably everyone, to be honest, apart from my wife, who was probably the one that really (saw) my deepest, darkest times.
"Probably my teammates and everyone else they probably knew I was prickly, but they probably didn't know the full extent of it, when I'd be at home and the way I'd be acting or things like that.
"And Wayne was one who I didn't open up to enough."