Liam Farrell hopes Wigan Warriors’ new mental health and wellness initiative will continue the work both the club and the wider rugby league world has done in bringing those issues to the fore.
The Warriors and their new training kit sponsor, men’s make-up company War Paint For Men, are partnering on a programme which has the theme of making sure men do what they need to do in order to be comfortable being themselves.
Farrell was inspired by the presentation given to the squad by War Paint founder Danny Gray about how his own mental health battles led to him launching the brand.
Wigan Warriors vs Hull FC
April 29, 2021, 7:00pm
And the 2020 Man of Steel nominee wants to build on the work already done in breaking down stigmas around players in Super League and the wider sport being open about their own struggles.
“The fans probably only see the sportsperson’s side of things when they’re playing on the field,” Farrell told Sky Sports.
“Especially with rugby league players, there’s this stigma that they’re all big, tough hard lads who don’t have their own personal issues, which we all do.
“It’s very important lads can speak to each other about the issues we’ve all got. Danny opened up in front of us, which wouldn’t have been easy for him, and I think as a sport we’re very good at trying to highlight the issues involved.”
As well as the issues which can affect people in all walks of life, there are unique circumstances of being a professional athlete which can lead to mental health problems, including stresses around injuries, contract renewals and the uncertainty which can come from a team being in a relegation fight.
Being in and out of form, facing criticism in the media and from the fans, as well as the spectre of online abuse for those players who have social media accounts, all feed into that too and Farrell is in no doubt being confident in being himself has helped him.
“Lads have to deal with all of those things, and you have to be a strong individual to put it all to one side and forget about it,” Farrell said.
“You have to be able to open up to someone and speak about it. That’s one big side of mental health you have to try to deal with, and I think the lads are getting on top of that now and it’s spoken about quite widely in rugby league.
You have to be able to open up to someone and speak about it. That’s one big side of mental health you have to try to deal with, and I think the lads are getting on top of that now and it’s spoken about quite widely in rugby league.
“I’m not a big social media fan or anything like that, so that helps a little bit. But one of my big things is always trying to be myself, and it’s working well so far and I’ll continue to do so.”
On the field, Farrell has had to step out of his comfort zone somewhat in recent weeks due to injuries in Wigan’s backs division seeing the second row deployed in the centre – a role he is set to continue when the Warriors face Hull FC live on Sky Sports on Thursday evening.
The 30-year-old has continued to stand out in that role, providing an assist in Wigan’s win over Castleford Tigers last week and making over 200 metres, although he admits the transition has not been quite as simple as it might appear from the outside.
“I wouldn’t call it easy,” Farrell said. “I’ve played back row for quite a while now and before this year I’d never started a game in the centre.
“I’ve moved there quite a few times in games before. I was pretty nervous defensively, but I’m sort of finding my feet there now and I’ve got some good players around me.
“I had Bevan French outside of me on the wing last Friday and Jackson Hastings on my inside, so I’ve got some pretty talented players there.
“I’m comfortable at the moment, but hopefully I’ll be back in the back row in the near future.”
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