Sitting around the plush surrounds of Gryphons Café and Bar in Manuka last Wednesday for the Menslink June Midweeker, many of the 50 strong crowd could be forgiven for being a little sceptical as they prepared to hear from former Australian prop David Shillington on how he overcame some of the troubles that he has faced in life.
Here is a happily married man with a beautiful daughter who has represented Australia 14 times and Queensland on eight occasions over his illustrious 10 year career in the NRL.
What troubles could he have possibly faced?
“Mate everyone has troubles, I’m no different,” Shillington said. “When I first started being involved with Menslink through the Raiders I learnt some pretty shocking things about mental health issues in society and that it is the biggest killer of young men today.
“I was pretty nervous up there because it was a pub sort of setting and I’d never been to one of those Menslink Midweekers before and all these people I'd never met before would be hearing me talk about some of the issues I’ve faced in my life.
“But hearing people talk about their tough times and how they came out of those tough times is inspiring to others and can lead to them seeking out help to get themselves out of their own personal troubles.
“Menslink’s Silence is Deadly program is a really worthwhile program and I’m more than happy to help out where I can.”
Whilst Shillington is in a good place now, the same cannot be said for a time earlier in his career when he found himself in some dark places. It was during this tough period that he learnt the importance of speaking to somebody about his troubles.
“I had a fairly rocky road along the way to where I am today and I shared my expierience about the importance of speaking to other people when you feel down and are having a tough time,” he said.
“I also spoke about the importance of role models and the ones that I looked up to and the type of role model that I try to be for younger players today.
“Everyone has their issues and when you see players in the newspapers for the wrong reasons it’s because they haven’t dealt with their issues properly. It’s important to respect that everyone has their issues and for people to encourage others to work through their issues.
“It can sometimes be as simple as asking someone how they're feeling or for that individual to seek someone out to talk to and not bottling up their issues, whether it be through an organisation like Menslink or a friend or family member. It felt really good to share my story and hopefully make a positive difference.”
Menslink CEO Martin Fisk has been inundated with positive feedback following Shillington’s appearance at the June Midweeker.
“Dave is a great role model,” Fisk said glowingly. “Unlike many men, he's not afraid to show his vulnerable side. He proves that strong confident men can also be vulnerable and this is something we wanted to highlight to the public at our Midweeker.
“He talked about the pressures and stresses of being in the public spotlight, about the ups and downs of a public professional football career and what being a role model means.
“He also spoke about some of the hard times in his life and how his then coach encouraged him to get some extra support through counselling. He spoke about how that really helped him.
“This is a message more men need to hear. Lots of people came up to me afterwards saying that it was great how open he was. He really is a great role model to many of us.”
For more information on Menslink please visit http://www.menslink.org.au/