After winning his battle against depression, forward Brooke Broughton has returned to the Hunslet Hawks line-up and is back to his best ahead of the new Championship season. Peter Smith reports.
HUNSLET HAWKS’ ex-Leeds Rhinos academy forward Brooke Broughton has paid tribute to his club and team-mates for helping him win a battle against depression.
Broughton revealed his personal struggle after returning to Hunslet’s line-up in recent pre-season games – and he has urged other players facing similar issues to seek help rather than suffer in silence.
The 24-year-old made 13 starts and five substitute appearances for Hawks last season, but dropped out of the team towards the end of the campaign. Outlining the reasons for his absence for the first time, Broughton revealed: “I had a few personal problems going on – my performance dropped and then I ended up getting a bit of depression.
“The club helped me and the RFL helped me. I didn’t put my hand up to play because I knew I wasn’t right, but the club helped me with that. It has been good to get back. I am okay now and just finding my feet.”
Broughton said his illness began suddenly, midway through last season. “I think it was after the York game,” he said. “I sat in the changing rooms and just broke down. It was a bit unexpected. I kept it in, I didn’t talk to anyone about it, which was probably the worst thing I could have done.
“But now I have had a lot of help from the RFL, from Barry (coach Barry Eaton) and Darren (Williams, director of rugby) and Jonny Wainhouse (Hawks’ assistant-coach last year) helped me a lot and talked me through it.
“Sporting Chance helped me and I was going to see psychiatrists twice a week, just talking. That’s what I needed to do, just talk things through and stop bottling things up. Originally I thought I can’t talk to anyone, I am a rugby player – and towards the end it got the better of me.”
The dark days of last term are now behind him according to Broughton, who turned in strong performances against Leeds Rhinos in the Lazenby Cup eight days ago and last weekend’s clash with Salford Red Devils.
“I was enjoying it,” he said of last year. “But after a couple of bad games, it got to me. I didn’t talk to anyone about it and kept it bottled up.
“If you shake things up, it will end up exploding. It was a weird one, I was playing really well, but having a few bad games here and there.
“I play things back in my head at night and didn’t tend to sleep much. I wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t talking to anyone about things at home.
“I had some home problems and it was hard. I was keeping things bottled up and it all became a bit too much at one point.”
Broughton said the break from playing helped him rediscover his love for the game. He reflected: “The best thing I could do was have a bit of time away.
“I was still training, I didn’t want to go away from it all of a sudden, because that would have hurt me. I told the lads, they knew about it and they were all so supportive and helped me through it. Now I have learned from my mistakes.
“If I have not had a good game and I want to talk things through I know the people at the club are here for me.”
Broughton is now focusing on rugby again and he reckons Hawks can be the surprise package in the Kingstone Press Championship this term.
After winning last year’s Championship One Grand Final the supporter-owned club will go into the season as huge underdogs.
“It is going to be very tough,” Broughton said. “But I think we have got the personnel.
“They have brought some quality people in, like Andy Kain.
“Nathan Darby, the trialist who played against Leeds, had a really good game. He has shown in training he is a good trainer and I wondered if he could take it out on to the pitch.
“He has proved he can and we’ve shown some good signs. If something goes wrong we have got to learn to keep building and to knock three or four sets out, rather than trying to change things straight away.
“If we can just cut out the mistakes we will be all right.”
Meanwhile, hooker Matthew Tebb was Hawks’ biggest fitness concern following their two games last weekend. He was stretchered off during Saturday’s loss to Salford and Eaton said: “There’s no injury as such, but he has got concussion. He will need a seven-day rest period and he’ll have to do a head test before he can train.”
Luke Hardbottle (hand) and Jordan Gale (dead leg) also suffered knocks against the Super League side and Marcus Elliot injured a shoulder, though Eaton is hopeful it is damage to an a/c joint rather than a break.
The other weekend casualty was Callum Casey, who rolled and ankle in the win at Doncaster.
“Sunday was going to be a good benchmark,” Eaton said: “It was pretty evident that what we’ve been working on in pre-season is working for us and an indication we are going to be competitive, if we don’t get carried away.
“Against Salford we had some whack in defence. Offensively we weren’t great, but we had a few people who hadn’t played for a while so we were bound to be a bit rusty.”