Supporting young players through their league journey
Through the FLO community fund, Le Va is supporting New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) to target depression and support suicide prevention, particularly among its youngest players.
NZRL wellbeing and education manager Joe Harawira has been collaborating with organisations such as Youthline, White Face Crew and Le Va to design, develop and deliver three suicide prevention workshops for its 80 elite junior league players – all of whom were trialling last month to make their respective national age grade teams.
These players are already on the NRL pathway (90 per cent have signed contracts with NRL clubs) and, as such, face unique pressures and demands. For example, many will relocate to Australia possibly leaving family and friends for the first time, which adds more pressure and, in some cases, creates anxiety. To counter some of the unique pressures faced by this group of young people, the NZRL’s workshops aim to give targeted support and education around resiliency and mental wellbeing, including suicide prevention.
In addition to the young players, the workshops were delivered to the NZRL’s 15 high performance coaches, trainers and managers.
“Coaches, trainers and managers are in a unique position to make a difference in young people’s lives…they are potentially the next group of adults (with the exception of parents and teachers) who spend a significant amount of time with athletes,” Joe said.
All three workshops had the same goals, and used consistent and safe suicide prevention messaging.
The workshops covered identifying risk and resiliency factors (including being aware of your culture), and how and where to get help. This made for a unique opportunity to directly connect with and raise awareness of suicide prevention to this otherwise hard to reach population of young league professionals.
Due to the success of these combined workshops, the NZRL has decided to include youth and adult-friendly information sessions on wellbeing, resiliency and suicide prevention as part of its curriculum at all future national Youth Performance Camps and at national Performance Academies Summer Camps which attract up to 250 young players each year.
More resources have also been developed and promoted through national media, such as on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme, such as pull-up banners with strength-based quotes such as, ‘better people make better players’.
We will continue to back the NZRL and wider NRL community in this space, to ensure that our young players are safe and supported through their league journey.
NZRL wellbeing and education manager Joe Harawira talks to TVNZ Breakfast host Rawdon Christie about the NZRL’s initiatives.