Forget winning Grand Finals and State of Origin games: NRL icon Greg Inglis is currently doing his main job, helping Aussies suffering from mental health issues in his role with the Goanna Academywhich he founded in 2020.
The legend of Storm, Souths, Queensland and Kangaroos travels the country as part of his work with the body, Australia’s first provider of mental health education.
Some of the stories he hears from struggling Aussies have him needing mental health care himself, but that’s offset by heartwarming updates from people who’ve changed their lives after he speaks and listens to them.
Inglis helps Aussies turn their lives into his work with groundbreaking Goanna Academy (pictured)
The NRL icon is spreading the message that ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ – something he failed to recognize as he struggled with bipolar II disorder during his incredible career on the field
Inglis battled his own demons throughout his playing career and was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in 2019 at a time that changed his life.
But despite knowing better than anyone how the Academy can help those in need, the 36-year-old reacts with surprise when asked what difference it would have made to him when he was a young footy star on the rise. .
“Look, I don’t think I would have ever gone there, to be honest,” he told Daily Mail Australia.
And this is what I talked about: It was time to push that manly person away and stop walking around thinking I was bulletproof.
“This is where we’re going – the message that it’s okay not to be okay… I was just too stubborn to do it until it got too late.”
Inglis believes the NRL is doing a “great job” when it comes to looking after the mental health of today’s stars, some of whom are very involved in helping him spread the academy’s message.
“It was time to push that manly person away and stop walking around thinking I was bulletproof,” the former Storm, Souths and Maroons star said of what he needed to do to turn his own life around .
Inglis (pictured receiving his winner’s ring after Souths’ win in the 2014 grand final) says it’s hard to get footy players to open up, but he’d like them to get in touch
Sydney’s Goanna Academy gala on June 9 (pictured) raised a small fortune so the body can continue its good work
“It was great to have Nicho Hynes as an advocate for us, and to have Latrell [Mitchell] and Cody [Walker] being on board as ambassadors also helps make that voice heard,” he said.
Hynes in particular stands out from Inglis as a great role model as he is a tough competitor on the field, but he is not concerned about opening up about personal issues outside of the game.
The same isn’t true of many of the other footy stars the Souths greatness overtakes.
“I’d like them to get in touch because at the end of the day it’s confidential – I can see they really want to ask but it’s like asking around how to do it, how did I do it, how am I handle things,” he said.
Ironically, one star Inglis has been reaching out to lately is Hynes, as he tries to make sure the Sharks pivot is okay following his shock abdication of the NSW State of Origin side for game two of the series.
“I was disappointed because he has been in that [NSW] system for two years, game one played just five minutes out of position – you can’t judge a person by that,” Inglis said.
“You have to look at what he’s done in the last two years, and he’s a great human being.
Nicho Hynes – who acts as an advocate for the Goanna Academy – has made a huge impression on Inglis, who calls him “a wonderful human being”
Latrell Mitchell (left) – who follows in Inglis’ footsteps as Souths fullback and arguably their best player – also helps the academy along with teammate Cody Walker
“I was scratching my head, like many Blues fans, but I’m more concerned about how he reacted.
“I’ve tried to contact him, but he’s hard to get hold of, like most footballers. I’m sure Nicho knows that when he’s ready to talk, he can talk to me.’
The legendary full-back admits he left the match the wrong way because he thought he could go cold turkey from rugby league.
“You can’t just get out of the game, you just can’t,” he said.
“That’s what I struggled with, that’s what I did, I thought I could step away completely once I retired and be happy with it.
‘But you have to keep that door open, which I do now, go back through Queensland Pathways, go to Souths games…but I love my weekends off, haven’t had that in 20 years!’
Inglis says the country’s cost-of-living crisis has increased demand for Goanna Academy’s services, and he has a mission to “build it all over Australia, have offices in all major cities and nationwide cities so we can be an outpost to reach people. – but then he would like some rest.
‘That’s my goal. Once I see it all built up and I’m happy with it, I’d like to move back home, be on my land, be on my land and be near my family,” he explained.
“I left home when I was 15, so I’d like to go back home and watch my kids grow up.”