When the pain of a mate sparks a revolution

A world-first mental health awareness and training initiative is set to be rolled out through Queensland rugby union clubs. It’s called RUGBY UNITE and it’s the passion project of four mates who lost a friend in 2015 and are determined to change the way mental health is viewed and treated forever.


In January 2015, Rick Tyrrell had a beautiful family, a successful rugby career with the Queensland Reds, Easts and Sunnybank premier clubs and was building an enviable profession in media. But Rick was one of the 1 in 5 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.

*   1 in 5 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 8 Australians commit suicide and over 30 people will attempt to take their own life.
*   75 % of suicides are by men – with an average of 6 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.  This means, mental illness is the biggest social problem facing Rugby Union with an estimated 2,000 registered players aged 18+ experiencing a mental health condition each year throughout Queensland.

Suicide would also be the largest cause of death of the Rugby playing population.

In support of their commitment to unite the Queensland rugby community, and to provide much needed mental health support and education, Queensland Rugby Union and the State Government have joined in partnership with Rugby Unite.

Rugby Unite will provide not just information about combatting mental health in Queensland’s 240 grassroots Rugby clubs but will also train volunteers in Mental Health First Aid.   The three-year program, now supported by the Palaszczuk State Government and the Queensland Mental Health Commission, is the first time a sporting organisation has combined formal mental health training with an awareness campaign.

EDIT Tom Milosevic & Larry Hermens 194A9785.jpgThe four blokes behind Rugby Unite are Damon Rielly, Darren Gaffney, Michael Chettle and Alex Corones, all former rugby players and all mates of Rick Tyrrell. “As mates we did not have the understanding to recognise his mental health condition or how to help,” said Damon Rielly. “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 union community to address the issue of mental illness, because it affects more people than anyone really realises.”

The four friends, in partnership with 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 annually. 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 the full game in their opposition socks, with aim of establishing the Sock Swap an annual tribute, a message to walk in the shoes of another.

QRU Chief Executive Officer David Hanham said the RUGBY UNITE program also drew inspiration from the work of former Reds and Wallabies prop Stan Pilecki, who was a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness. “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.”

Health Minister Stephen Miles said, 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.”

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.

WHAT: THE 5th ANNUAL RICK TYRRELL CUP – Easts vs Sunnybank (round 4 game)
WHERE: Easts Rugby Union Club, Halifax Street, Coorparoo
WHEN:  Saturday May 18, 2019 from 11am

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