Boyd opens up on Bennett: “My one regret’’
It's time to declare - on and off the field - for Darius Boyd.
Boyd will retire at the season's end and has spent part of his time in lockdown being interviewed by former Courier-Mail editor Michael Crutcher for an autobiography which will detail his journey from a gifted but shy youngster to one of rugby league's statesmen, including mental health battles, premierships, club changes, and the great and small moments of his career.
Today, as he returns from hibernation with the Broncos to face Parramatta on Thursday, he talks about his unique journey.
No player gets it all. If you could have one skill from another player what would it be?
Greg Inglis' fend. It was one of the best ever seen in the game. He was one of my favourite players. The thing about that fend was it could enable you to do something out of nothing.
Your career and your life has so many intriguing threads. How have you found reflecting on it with Michael for your book?
I have enjoyed it. My journey has been a bit different to others. Rugby league has been a big part of my life. But the other side of it has been the mental health and wellbeing so I'm hoping this book will be there for rugby league fans and others who go through interesting times and roller coasters like I did and they can find the tools and resources to deal with them like I did.
Writing a book can be an emotional journey. Has there been a moment when you revisited your past and became very emotional?
Yes. I kept a gratitude journal for about 18 months and when I looked back at some of the entries about the dark times there were some things that were hard to read. But it eventually made me more positive because I just realise how far I have come and how much I have learnt and what a good place I am in now compared to where I was six or seven years ago.
You have become one of the most changed characters in the game, from a painfully shy kid to open book. What changed?
You grow up and you mature but I think my time away from the game in a mental health clinic I really tried to work on myself and learn about life. I was quite naive and shallow. I had to learn about what was expected as a professional athlete and media. There was a lot of things I did not like but also a lot of things I did not understand.
How do you look back at the young Darius?
Well it's a good question. Just naive, not understanding life. I just didn't have enough key people around me guiding me in the right direction. Obviously Wayne Bennett was great but I did not even open up to him as much as I could have or should have. But I look back and I'm proud of the growth I've had.
That's interesting about you not opening up to Bennett because everyone thought he was your guiding light and you told him everything?
The thing is we are both introverts. A lot of times there was just not a lot said between us. We would ask each other how we are going and talk a bit about football and that was it.
So, if there was a lack of deep conversations, why was Bennett so important to you?
Because I knew he had my back. He cared for me and my family. I knew whether it was my footy career or my finances he was in my corner. I did not use him enough but it was still great to have him behind me at a time when I did not have a lot of people guiding me.
When you cast your mind back to your first grade debut 14 years ago for the Broncos what is the first sight or sound that comes into your mind?
The noise after the kick-off. It was the first game of the year - Broncos versus Cowboys, a day game at Suncorp. They kicked the ball and it was coming down towards me and Shane Perry who was standing seven metres away. We were shouting but we could not hear each other it was so loud. We are lucky to get crowds like that at Suncorp, the best crowds at the game.
I understand you have kept the very first letter the Broncos sent you as a schoolboy. What did it say?
I have my first contract from them as well. My grandma was great at that. She kept those things. My scholarship was $1000 - $500 for football equipment and $500 for schoolbooks.
And the letter included the express instruction that you must study hard at school … did you keep your end of the bargain?
You always want to do your best but I was definitely more interested in the rugby league side of things at school and lucky for me it all panned out OK.
You copped a lot of flak on social media last year but it just seemed to bounce off you. What was your strategy?
I don't have any social media platforms. I don't read the papers. I don't watch the news. It is a little strategy I have. There is a lot of good things out there but a lot of negative stuff as well and I think a positive head space is really important.
You fleetingly contemplated becoming a vegan but I've heard you are back on the meat?
I watched that doco like a lot of people and thought I would try it. I just thought for professional athletes, particularly in my sport, it is too hard to do, so I went back to meat pretty quickly.
You never shed a tear at your own retirement press conference yet you did at Matt Gillett's. Why was that?
I shed tears easily. A touching story or a motivational movie. Gillo's was tough because it happened so quickly through injury. I had never been to a retirement press conference and when I saw his wife and kids my eyes became watery. At my own I can get blubbery and messy when I get emotional so I just wanted to try and do a good job. I was proud of myself for holding it together.
What is your favourite memory of your career?
The grand final wins with the Broncos (2006) and Dragons (2010). You just spend so much time with your teammates throughout the year and to get there with them on the last day of the season is great. We had our 10 year reunion with the Broncos 2006 side a few years ago and the memories and the celebrations never leave you.
Who was the last man to leave the Broncos reunion?
It was not a crazy night but Justin Hodges always likes a beer so it might have been him.
How hard is it going to be in lockdown for young players who might not be able to go to coffee shops and do things everyone else is doing?
It might be pretty challenging but we must remember we are lucky to be back on the field. The game will bring a lot of joy back to society. It will bring a bit or normality back.
And what was the story when you were filmed by the television cameras in a park with Jack Bird?
I see a little bit of my younger self in him. It was hard because you could go for a walk with someone but you could not sit down and he was on crutches so it was not easy to go for a walk and we sat down for a little bit. He has a couple of tough injuries and he is away from family and friends in Brisbane. We caught up a couple of times at my house and in the park and we watched the NFL draft.
You have seen all your teammates emerge from hibernation. Name one player who's returned in pristine shape?
Kotoni Staggs started the season well and the way he has been training he looks like he is in for a decent season.
There is a school of thought that the horrendous loss to Parramatta in the last game of last season may be a good thing for the club. Do you agree?
It definitely drove us to have a big pre-season and make sure we learnt from those mistakes.
Originally published as Boyd opens up on Bennett: "My one regret''