Super Rugby


Queensland Rugby Union partners with Rugby Unite and State Government to launch ground-breaking mental health program

A world-first mental health awareness and training initiative will be rolled out around Queensland Rugby Union clubs.
The Rugby Unite program was inspired by the work of four Rugby mates who lost a friend in 2015 and are determined to change the way mental health is viewed and treated forever. It also honours the memory of former Queensland Reds and Wallabies great Stan Pilecki, who was a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness.
Rugby Unite was formed following the passing of former Reds, Easts and Sunnybank player Rick Tyrrell in 2015. The group, led by Rick’s mates Damon Rielly, Darren Gaffney, Michael Chettle and Alex Corones, has been raising awareness about mental health within Brisbane Rugby clubs through the charity they established - Rugby Unite.
The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) has now partnered with Rugby Unite, the Palaszczuk State Government and the Queensland Mental Health Commission to roll out an expanded program to all of the State’s 240 Rugby clubs.
The three-year Rugby Unite program will provide not just information about combatting mental health in grassroots Rugby clubs but will also train volunteers in Mental Health First Aid.
It is the first time a sporting organisation has combined awareness of mental health with formal training to recognise the signs and provide tools to get sufferers the help they need.
Rugby Unite co-founder Damon Rielly said the shock of Rick Tyrrell’s passing highlighted how mental illness could strike anyone – and how it went unrecognised.
“As mates we did not have the understanding to recognise his mental health condition or how to help,” Rielly said.
“Rick’s death spurred us into action to do whatever we could, to prevent anyone else from having to deal with a similar tragedy. Rugby Unite was formed in 2016 and is committed to working with the Queensland Rugby community to address the issue of mental illness, because it affects more people than anyone really realises.”
The four friends, in partnership with Rick’s former Queensland Premier Rugby clubs Easts and Sunnybank, initially conceived what has become an annual tribute match, with the two clubs competing for the Rick Tyrrell Cup.
This Saturday Easts and Sunnybank will play for the fifth annual Rick Tyrrell Cup, which honours his life and encourages the Rugby community to discuss mental illness.
In a show of united support and camaraderie, the teams will play in their opposition’s socks, with the aim of establishing the moment as an annual tribute, a message to walk in the shoes of one another. 
QRU Chief Executive Officer David Hanham said the work of Rugby Unite and the advocacy of Stan Pilecki had brought mental health into the spotlight.
“Rugby is like any other part of the community – our players and supporters are just as likely to suffer mental health issues,” Mr Hanham said.
“Based on State-wide mental health statistics almost 5000 of our 26,000 registered players will suffer some sort of mental health issue every year. If this program can get one person the clinical help they need it has done its job.
“We will be providing our Rugby community not just with encouragement to talk about mental illness, but providing each club with the tools to identify it and get people into the health system.”
Minister for Health Steven Miles said the Palaszczuk Government is proud to back the Rugby Unite program.

“Keeping Queenslanders healthy – both physically and mentally – is a priority for this Government, and we’re going to continue to invest in innovative mental health programs like Rugby Unite," said Miles. 
Rugby Unite will also work closely with the Vintage Reds group of past Queensland representatives. The Vintage Reds will incorporate the Rugby Unite program into their tours and charity games around the State.
This Saturday May 18, 2019 from 11:00am, main game at 3:20pm
The Premier Grade match between Easts and Sunnybank will be the Newstead Brewing Hospital Challenge Cup Round 8 Match of the Round and will be broadcast LIVE and FREE via The match will also be replayed on Fox Sports next Wednesday, 22 June. 
Easts Rugby Union Club, Halifax Street, Coorparoo
In January 2015, Rick Tyrell had a beautiful family, had finished a successful Rugby career with the Queensland Reds, Easts and Sunnybank, and was building an enviable profession in media. But Rick was one of the one-in-five Australians living with a mental health condition and one of the 54% that didn’t seek treatment. Rick passed away due to his undiagnosed mental illness, and it’s a passing that Rugby Unite wants to remember, because it never should have happened.  
  • One in five Australians will experience a mental health condition in a given year.
  • 54% of people with depression DON’T seek treatment or intervention.
  • Depression is a high risk factor for suicide, every day eight Australians commit suicide and over 30 people will attempt to take their own life.
  • 75 % of suicides are by men – with an average of six men taking their lives every single day. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 54, and for both males and females aged between 15 and 44.


Rugby Traveller